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Rare Gulf of Aden tropical cyclone to bring flood risk to Somalia, Djibouti

By Kristina Pydynowski, AccuWeather senior meteorologist
By Robert Richards, AccuWeather meteorologist
May 20, 2018, 12:05:37 AM EDT

Tropical Depression Sagar will bring a significant threat for flooding to northwestern Somalia and neighboring Djibouti into Sunday.

Sagar took shape over the warm waters of the Gulf of Aden on Thursday morning, local time.

"A tropical cyclone forming over the Gulf of Aden does not happen often," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Jason Nicholls said. "The last cyclone to move into the Gulf of Aden was Chapala in November 2015, but that storm formed over the open Arabian Sea."

According to one media report on Friday, two people have died and another person is missing near the Somalian town of Garowe after torrential rain from the cyclone caused flooding.

Drier air funneling in from the Arabian Peninsula and/or the Horn of Africa typically inhibits tropical development over these waters.

The compact nature of Sagar prevented the cyclone from pulling in much dry air.

Sagar was a cyclonic storm (the equivalent of a tropical storm in the Atlantic or northern Pacific oceans) when it made landfall in northwestern Somalia on Saturday.

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With Sagar onshore and continuing to weaken, the main threat to lives and property will be torrential rain.

There is a serious threat for flash flooding and mudslides in northwestern Somalia as Sagar could unload 75-150 mm (3-6 inches) of rain. Totals on the higher end of that range would mean about a year’s worth of rainfall for these communities in a span of just a couple of days.

Residents should be prepared for possible evacuations, road closures and damaged bridges. There can be major disruptions to air travel.

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Never drive through a flooded road. The road may be washed away, or the current of the water may be strong enough to sweep away a vehicle, even if the surface appears smooth.

Communities at risk for the flooding rain include Saylac, Asha Addo and Lughaya in Somalia. Flooding downpours may also spread over southern Djibouti and graze the western coast of Yemen.

The demise of Sagar will quickly come over eastern Africa by the end of the weekend. However, there may be enough lingering moisture for localized flooding downpours to cross central Ethiopia early in the new week.

Attention will then turn toward a new cyclone threat that may form and churn northward over the Arabian Sea next week.

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