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Deadly Tropical Cyclone Hudhud lashes India with winds over 100 mph

Tropical Cyclone Hudhud came ashore in India near the city of Visakhapatnam on Sunday with wind speeds over 100 mph and torrential rain, killing at least eight people in the states of Andhra Predesh and Orissa.

According to the Associated Press, at least 400,000 people were evacuated ahead of the storm, and damage in Visakhapatnam was significant:

Visakhapatnam, one of the largest cities in southern India and a major naval base, bore the brunt of Hudhud’s fury. Television footage showed downed electrical poles, uprooted trees and debris strewn in the streets. Train and cellphone services were disrupted. Electricity was disconnected in parts of Andhra Pradesh to avoid electrocutions, said Arvind Kumar, a relief and rescue official.

Images of the the airport in Visakhapatnam posted to social media shows major damage as a result of the storm:

Tropical Cyclone Hudhud went through a period of rapid intensification as it approached the India coast, peaking at the equivalent of a category 4 hurricane with winds of 135 mph, though there is some disagreement on the exact intensity of the cyclone at the time of landfall.

The India Meteorological Department says Hudhud made landfall with winds of 109 mph, and India’s Firstpost is praising the department for its exemplary forecast, saying it “has no peer when it comes to forecasting cyclonic storms in the Indian seas.” However, the Joint Typhoon Warning Center analyzed the storm at around 132 mph at the time of landfall.

In an interview with the BBC, N Yuvaraj, a senior district official in Visakhapatnam, suggested that wind speeds in the city were closer to JTWC’s forecast. “We had this cyclone hitting us at around 10:25 Indian Standard Time (04:55 GMT),” he said. “And at that point we had a wind speed of more than 205km/h,” which is around 127 mph. It is unclear if these wind speeds were sustained or gusts.

Much of the confusion around landfall intensity likely stems from the disagreement between the measuring techniques employed by the different forecasting organizations. While the Joint Typhoon Warning Center uses a widely recognized standard of one-minute sustained winds, the India Meteorological Department uses three-minute sustained winds, making verification between the forecast agencies difficult, especially when local observation data is sparse, and storm-related power outages are widespread.

In any case, Hudhud was a powerful, deadly cyclone at landfall. Weather Underground’s director of meteorology Jeff Masters suggests the damage will probably end up looking similar to that of Tropical Cyclone Phailin in 2013:

One-minute resolution wind observations from Visakhapatnam showed a peak sustained wind of 73 mph at 9:44 am local time, with a peak gust of 119 mph at 10:30 am. The station stopped reporting data at that time. Communications are out to much of the most severely affected regions, and I expect Hudhud’s eventual toll will be similar to that of Category 4 Tropical Cyclone Phailin, which killed 45 people and did $700 million in damage in October 2013 to an area of India’s coast just north of where Hudhud hit.

While Hudhud has moved inland away from the coast on Monday, Andhra Predesh and Orissa will likely see showers and thunderstorms in its wake for the next day or so as the cleanup begins.