Tropical Cyclone Gaja Makes Landfall in Southern India

Tropical Cyclone Gaja made landfall on the coast of southern India just south of Nagappattinam on Thursday.  At 4:00 p.m. EST on Thursday the center of Tropical Storm Gaja was located at latitude 10.5°N and longitude 79.7°E which put it about 10 miles (15 km) south of Nagappattinam, India.  Gaja was moving toward the west-southwest at 11 m.p.h. (17 km/h).  The maximum sustained wind speed was 85 m.p.h. (135 km/h) and there were wind gusts to 100 m.p.h. (160 km/h).  The minimum surface pressure was 974 mb.

Tropical Cyclone Gaja strengthened rapidly into the equivalent of a hurricane/typhoon while it approached the coast of Southern India.  A small circular eye formed at the center of circulation.  A ring of strong thunderstorms surrounded the eye and the strongest winds were occurring in that ring of storms.  Several bands of showers and thunderstorms were revolving around the core of Tropical Cyclone Gaja.  The circulation of Gaja was small, which allowed it to strengthen quickly before landfall.  Winds to hurricane/typhoon force only extended out about 10 miles (15 km) from the center of circulation.  Winds to tropical storm force only extended out about 65 miles (105 km) from the center.

Tropical Cyclone Gaja produced winds strong enough to cause damage in the area near Nagappattinam.  Those winds could bring a storm surge of 5 to 8 feet (1.5 to 2.5 meters) near where the center made landfall.  The small size of Tropical Cyclone Gaja and the fact it did not intensify until it neared the coast will limit the magnitude of the storm surge.  Gaja is forecast to move westward across southern India.  Tropical Cyclone Gaja will weaken when it moves inland but it will drop locally heavy rain over Tamil Nadu, Kerala and southern Karnataka.  The heavy rain could cause flash flooding in those regions.

Tropical Cyclone Gaja will weaken while it moves across southern India.  The small size of the circulation and mountains in that area will contribute to a fairly rapid weakening.  The circulation in the lower levels could be seriously disrupted when it moves over the mountains, but the circulation in the middle levels may persist.  Some numerical models are forecasting that Tropical Cyclone Gaja could strengthen back into the equivalent of a tropical storm when it moves over the Arabian Sea.