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By Bizodisha Bureau, Bhubaneswar, May 17, 2020: Even as Odisha grapples with rapidly spreading novel coronavirus disease COVID-19, another natural threat looms over its coast on Monday evening. The India Meteorological Department (IMD) in its latest bulletin however predicts that Odisha may be spared as the severe cyclonic storm, ‘AMPHAN’ is likely to have landfall in between West Bengal- Bangladesh coasts between Digha (West Bengal) and Hatiya Islands (Bangladesh) during the afternoon or evening of May 20.”

However, Odisha will have for heavy rain under the influence of the cyclone. “It is very likely to move nearly northwards slowly during next 24 hours and then re-curve north-northeastwards and move fast across northwest Bay of Bengal and cross West Bengal — Bangladesh coasts between Digha (West Bengal) and Hatiya Islands (Bangladesh) during the afternoon or evening of May 20,” the IMD says.

After a wide range of discrepancies in the projected track over the past few days, most models now agree on a more or less similar path for the storm. As per the current forecast, the system will continue on its track of north-northwestwards till Sunday and then recurve north-northeastwards from Monday to Wednesday. As on Sunday morning, the storm lies 1,140 km away from Digha in West Bengal.

However, some European model projections such as the UKMO (UK Met Office) and the ECMWF suggest that the storm could track westward to make landfall over north Odisha coast. Moreover, experts feel that a significant weigtage should be given to these forecasts as well and the preparations should ideally start across Odisha and West Bengal coasts for potential landfall as very severe storm.

The forecasts from IMD suggest that squally wind speed reaching 45 to 55 kmph gusting to 65 kmph is likely to commence along and off Odisha coast from Monday evening, and extend to West Bengal coast from Tuesday afternoon. The wind speeds are likely to go up to around 145 kmph over central bay of Bengal (BoB) by Monday and up to 180 kmph over north BoB by Wednesday.

Rainfall will commence in Odisha from May 18 with heavy rainfall likely to occur at isolated places over the district of Gajapati, Ganjam, Puri, Jagatsinghpur and Kendrapara. The IMD has issued an ‘orange alert’ for May 19 and 20 when heavy to very heavy rainfall is likely to take place in coastal districts.

The IMD has warned the fishers not to venture into the Odisha-West Bengal-Bangladesh coast from Monday onwards, and those who are out at sea are advised to return immediately.

As the cyclone approaches the coast on Tuesday night, strong winds, very rough sea conditions, storm surge and heavy rain are likely across Odisha and West Bengal coasts. The IMD has issued an orange alert to both Odisha and Gangetic West Bengal (South Bengal). The alert urges the residents to be prepared for gale winds and very heavy rainfall.

Last year, Cyclone Fani had hit Odisha in May, killing more than 70 people in Odisha and West Bengal. Fani was also an Extremely Severe Cyclonic Storm with maximum sustained wind speeds of 215 kmph.

Twelve districts have been put on alert. “We have kept infrastructure ready for people to be evacuated from vulnerable areas. We will issue a clear instruction for evacuation after receiving detailed information about the severe cyclone,” said Special Relief Commissioner Pradeep Jena.

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