Cyclone Nisarga lands, but Mumbai catches a break  06/03/2020 18:53:11 

Cyclone Nisarga crossed the coast of Maharashtra on Wednesday, coming within 75km of Mumbai but not causing any loss of life in maximum city. The city experienced rain and high speed winds through the day, uprooting dozens of trees which damaged cars and property.

City authorities moved 50,000 people from flood prone areas to safety. By Wednesday evening the severe cyclonic storm had weakened, owing to which there is no alert for Thursday.

Civic agencies in Mumbai stayed on high alert throughout Tuesday night and Wednesday as Cyclone Nisarga inched closer to the city. By Wednesday noon, it lay 110km south of Mumbai. Landfall was forecast near Alibaug by 3 p.m. However, the cyclone crossed Maharashtra coast south of Alibaug, 75km south-southeast of Mumbai, 65km west of Pune with a maximum wind speed of 110kmph, going up to 120kmph between 12.30 p.m. and 2.30 p.m.

Owing to this change, Thane, Navi Mumbai and Mumbai city were impacted less than expected. Mumbai experienced maximum wind speed of 90 kmph and by 5.30 p.m. on Wednesday had received merely 22.8mm rainfall (Santacruz). India Meteorological Departments Colaba observatory reported 46.7mm rainfall.

Explaining why Mumbai did not get impacted as forecast, Dr. Mrutyunjay Mohapatra, Director-General of Meteorology, IMD, said, We always said the landfall would be near Alibaug. The system moved close to south of Alibaug, which is why Raigad district was most affected. As predicted, wind speed was upto 120kmph. The system had just formed on May 31 but we alerted Maharashtra and Gujarat governments the same day, which gave them more time to prepare. Being over-prepared is better than being under-prepared.

Akshay Deoras, a PhD student at Department of Meteorology, University of Reading, U.K., who follows Indian monsoon closely said, The official wind and rain forecast for Mumbai (as well the damage estimate) was heavily dependent on the prediction of Cyclone Nisarga making a landfall very close to Alibaug. Impacts related to any cyclone decrease with an increasing distance from the landfall region. Since the actual landfall happened near Diveagar, which is to the south of Alibaug, and nearly 200 kilometres from Mumbai, the city didnt witness that intense weather scenario. In addition, Cyclone Nisarga had a very restricted chance of intensifying before striking the land. As per the official forecast, it was supposed to intensify into a severe cyclonic storm on 2 June, but it didnt, rather it weakened during the evening of 2 June. This helped in controlling the overall intensity of the cyclone.

Despite the cyclone, IMD is expecting Mumbai to keep its date with monsoon.

Dr. Mohapatra said, There has not been much impact on the Arabian Sea current, which will improve. This means day after tomorrow, monsoon will revive. We are expecting a low pressure system over Bay of Bengal also. So we cannot say that Mumbai monsoon is delayed.

BMC on high alert

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) moved almost 25,000 people from various parts of the city to safer locations, with another 30,000 people moving voluntarily to safer areas, including many from landslide prone areas. The BMC will provide them meals. They will also undergo a health checkup for COVID-19 symptoms.

The BMC also consulted Odisha government for their expertise in cyclones, and experts from that State warned the civic body to move fallen trees immediately as it hampers relief work. BMC invited employees from other agencies as well to help with this. The BMC had also kept all pumps and pumping stations ready. However, there were only minor complaints of waterlogging. In all there were nine incidents of slabs collapsing, and 117 complaints of trees or branches falling.

The garden department had stationed 96 small teams in Mumbai to clear collapsed trees. A towing vehicle was also on standby to clear vehicles from roads in case of break downs. Representatives of BEST, Fire Brigade, police, shelter facilities were stationed at the disaster control room for better coordination.

Apart from the disaster control room, Municipal Commissioner I.S. Chahal visited seven locations in Mumbai, including a shelter and a pumping station. Mayor Kishori Pednekar also took stock of the situation at various beaches of Mumbai along with the fire brigade.

The officials in Byculla Zoo also shifted tigers, leopards, and hyenas into their holding areas to prevent any injury due to falling trees. The zoos emergency response team was on alert with necessary equipment.

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