Cyclone Chapala approaching Yemen and Oman rapidly gained strength, becoming one of the strongest storms ever recorded in the region and threatening the coasts of Yemen and Oman with a potentially destructive landfall.
Chapala, brewing in the Arabian Sea, intensified to the equivalent of a powerful Category 4 hurricane on Thursday and Friday with gusts of wind up to 260km/h, according to the Joint Typhoon Warning Center in Hawaii.
Clare Nullis, a spokeswoman for the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), a United Nations agency said that the storm could bring “very high gale force winds in an area that is just not used to seeing this,” adding that the most dangerous threat was the possibility of torrential rain.
“The winds are a threat, but we expect the biggest impact will be from the very, very, very serious rainfall,” she said.
“I’ve seen some reports that the area might get the equivalent of more than a year’s worth of rainfall in a couple of days.”
Center of the tropical cyclone is about 600 km from Salalah and the adjacent rainy cloud to the center of the cyclone is between 450-500 km.
— الأرصاد العمانية (@OmanMeteorology) October 31, 2015
It is expected that the storm could dump more than a year’s worth of rainfall on the most arid countries in the world.
Rainfall is likely to cause mudslides, flooding and damages to buildings and other infrastructure along the coasts of both Arabian Peninsula countries; Yemen and Oman.
"The region is climatically very arid. There is a fear that the storm will trigger significant flooding and related severe impacts such as mudslides and infrastructural damages," the WMO said in a statement.
"The forecast rainfall would represent an extremely unusual event for the area, and it is highly unlikely that the natural water courses and drainage systems would be able to cope with this amount of rain."
Warning (1). pic.twitter.com/G88buJfIMa
— الأرصاد العمانية (@OmanMeteorology) October 30, 2015
WMO said that the area where Cyclone Chapala may cause landfall is sparsely populated. Oman’s State Meteorological Agency warned residents on the possibility of torrential rains, thunderstorms and floods expected to begin on Saturday. The agency called residents to avoid low-lying areas and crossing rivers during the storm.
In 2007, a similar storm Cyclone Gonu hit Oman’s capital Muscat, killing at least 50 people and causing $5 billion in damage. Salalah, another city of Oman, lies in the path of Cyclone Chapala.