India: Cyclone Gaja makes landfall in Tamil Nadu, kills at least 10

By Eric Leister, AccuWeather senior meteorologist
By Courtney Spamer, AccuWeather meteorologist
November 16, 2018, 5:44:58 AM EST

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Deadly Gaja will continue to blast southern India with flooding rain and damaging winds into Friday.

"Gaja made landfall along the coast of Tamil Nadu as a severe cyclonic storm between Vedaranyam and Velankanni shortly after midnight local time," according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Kristina Pydynowski.

Damaging winds and flooding rain will threaten areas in the vicinity of landfall. Wind speeds of 80-115 km/h (50-70 mph) are expected near the storm's center with gusts to 130 km/h (80 mph).

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Such winds can damage trees and weak structures, as well as cause power outages.

"As the winds howl, Gaja will also bring a risk for flooding to the areas in the vicinity of where the cyclone comes onshore," Pydynowski said. "A total of 100-150 mm (4-6 inches) with an AccuWeather Local StormMax™ of 200 mm (8 inches) of rain can lead to widespread flooding issues."

Residents should prepare for road closures, as well as streams and small rivers rising out of their banks and flooding neighboring land and homes. Those living in flood-prone areas may be forced to evacuate their homes.

According to the Associated Press, more than 80,000 people have been evacuated from low-lying areas. The storm has resulting in 10 fatalities as of midday Friday, local time.

The worst of the cyclone is expected to remain south of Chennai, but a shower or thunderstorm can occasionally dampen the city through at least Friday. A heavier burst of rain leading to travel delays cannot be ruled out.

Rough seas will pound the coastline, creating dangerous conditions for swimmers and boaters. Thousands of fisherman have been warned to stay away from the sea.

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Gaja will weaken quickly as it moves inland across southern India, reducing the risk for damaging winds across western Tamil Nadu or Kerala.

While damaging winds will be isolated in these areas, downpours will be common with the risk for flash flooding and mudslides in areas of rugged terrain.

Gaja may still unleash 50-100 mm (2-4 inches) of rain on southern Kerala, mainly from Kochi to Kollam, on Friday.

Gaja will move into the Arabian Sea by Saturday, ending the risk for widespread heavy rainfall in southern India.

Lingering moisture will fuel daily showers and thunderstorms across Tamil Nadu and Kerala through the weekend, disrupting cleanup operations. Isolated downpours can renew any flooding in eastern Tamil Nadu.

Downpours can increase across southeast India next week as monsoon rains resume.

"There is a risk for heavy rain to overspread eastern Tamil Nadu on Tuesday and Wednesday of next week," according to Pydynowski. "Areas where Gaja leaves the ground saturated will be at a higher danger for new flooding problems."

A dry stretch of weather should follow across southern India for the final week of November into the start of December, AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Jason Nicholls said.

"That may not mean the end to the Northeast Monsoon as rains may return around mid-December," he said.

Elsewhere, dry weather will prevail across northern India into this weekend, leading to continued air quality problems across New Delhi and the National Capital Region.

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