For the first time in decades, a hurricane-strength cyclone is poised to slam into the northern coast of Oman. Tropical Cyclone Shaheen, equivalent to a Category 1 hurricane, is expected to make landfall in the Middle Eastern nation late Sunday night or early Monday morning local time.

The storm will generate a dangerous ocean surge, flash flooding and damaging winds in an area unaccustomed to such weather extremes. In a single day, some areas could see more than twice their annual rainfall, which is only three to four inches.

According to Reuters, Shaheen has been blamed for three deaths in Oman, where the outer part of the storm’s circulation was scraping the country’s central-northeast coast.

Tropical Cyclone Shaheen bore down on Oman on Oct. 2, killing at least three people and prompting authorities to urge residents to evacuate coastal areas. (Reuters)

The storm packed peak winds of 75 mph over the Gulf of Oman as it churned slowly westward Sunday evening. The Joint Typhoon Warning Center in Honolulu projected landfall within six to 12 hours near the coastal town of al-Suwayq, home to 120,000 people and about 85 miles west of Muscat, Oman’s capital.

In Muscat, Reuters reported, flights were suspended or delayed while officials urged residents to evacuate coastal areas. The Times of Oman wrote that the government had set up 143 shelters.

The most dangerous conditions were anticipated west of Muscat, although windswept heavy rain could nevertheless drench the capital city.

The Typhoon Warning Center noted that the storm’s eye had become more distinct as it closed on the shoreline, a sign of strengthening. It predicted that Shaheen would intensify “a bit more” and that its peak winds could near 85 mph before landfall. The storm is anticipated to weaken rapidly after moving inland.

Oman’s Civil Aviation Authority predicted about eight to 20 inches of rain “causing severe flash floods.” The risk of flooding is particularly acute because the desert terrain cannot effectively absorb rain.

The authority also predicted offshore waves of 26 to 39 feet with shoreline waves of 6.5 to 10 feet.

Although Oman has been struck by numerous tropical cyclones over the years, they have almost always come in from the east off the Arabian Sea. No tropical cyclones have come in from the north off the Gulf of Oman since satellite observations began in the 1960s, although records that date further back show two instances.

Meteorologists Bob Henson and Jeff Masters, writing for Yale Climate Connections, noted that Shaheen would probably make landfall farther west in Oman than any previous known storm.

In 2018, Tropical Cyclone Mekunu slammed into Oman’s east coast from the Arabian Sea as the equivalent of a Category 3 hurricane, killing at least four people in Oman and eight in Yemen.