Ockhi is the first severe cyclonic storm in almost 40 years to have travelled about 2,400 kilometres from the Bay of Bengal to as far as the Gujarat coast, a senior Met Department official said day. Ockhi, which formed as a depression over southwest Bay of Bengal on November 29 last year, intensified into a cyclone off the Kanyakumari coast in Tamil Nadu on November 30 and travelled up to the Gujarat coast before it dissipated on December 6 after weakening into a low pressure area.
“In over three decades, this is the first severe cyclonic storm to have travelled more than 2,000 kilometres – forming over the Bay of Bengal, emerging into the Arabian Sea and travelling up to the Gujarat coast,” Regional Meteorological Centre director S Balachandran told PTI.
On storms that travelled similar or longer distances than Ockhi, he referred to one that occurred nearly a century ago. In December, 1922, a cyclone that originated in the Bay of Bengal travelled about 4,000km up to the Coast of Yemen, he said.
Balachandran said cyclones in November, 1966, November, 1977, and November, 1978, which formed over the Bay of Bengal, emerged into the Arabian sea and covered a distance of over 3,000km.
However, these cyclones did not affect Kanyakumari as they traversed across Tamil Nadu, north of 10°N latitude, before emerging into the Arabian sea.
Ockhi was also significant in the sense that it led to copious rainfall especially in the southern districts of Tamil Nadu with Tirunelveli and Kanyakumari getting 42 per cent and 23 per cent of excess rainfall respectively during the North-East monsoon season, he said.
Asked about the intensity and other physical parameters of the cyclone from its formation till the end, he said a report on this was expected soon.
He also said it was not possible yet to send out storm alerts at least a month in advance, as demanded by the fishermen’s community.
“Meteorological science as of now is not developed enough to do that. We cannot have such a long lead forecast now,” he said.
Balachandran explained there were other ocean-specific challenges in giving long lead forecasts over the Indian seas.
Cyclone Ockhi left a trail of destruction in the southern districts of Tamil Nadu, apart from devastating coastal areas in Kerala and Lakshadweep.
Hundreds of fishermen, who had gone out to the sea for fishing well ahead of Ockhi’s formation, could not access information on the cyclone. Many were killed and scores are still missing.