Cyclone Vayu took a sharp turn to the west, sparing Gujarat from a direct hit from the strongest cyclone to threaten the region in 20 years.
Vayu remains a very severe cyclonic storm with its strength equivalent to a Category 2 hurricane in the Atlantic or eastern Pacific oceans.
A cyclone this strong has not tracked this close to Gujarat since an extreme severe cyclonic storm made landfall near India’s border with Pakistan in May 1999. The previous year, a very severe cyclonic storm slammed into Gujarat near Porbandar in June.
While the most destructive winds and torrential rain remained just offshore, bands of heavy rain and strong winds are skirting the coast.
There has been a preliminary report of a gust to 114 km/h (71 mph) at Dhamrej. A gust of nearly 93 km/h (58 mph) was measured at Porbandar along the coast on Thursday afternoon, local time.
Power has been cut to 560 villages, and numerous tree damage has occurred in Gujarat, according to the Times of India.
While flights were halted in Gujarat on Thursday, airport facilities and infrastructure have not sustained any damage so far.
Nearly 300,000 people were evacuated ahead of the cyclone as 52 teams from the National Disaster Response Force are ready for rescue efforts and storm aid.
Additional Chief Secretary, Pankaj Kumar, told the Times of India that there have been no direct deaths due to Vayu in Gujarat.
Residents are being urged to remain vigilant of ongoing hazards associated with Vayu despite Gujarat escaping a direct hit.
Wind gusts of 65-95 km/h (40-60 mph) with an AccuWeather Local StormMax™ of 110 km/h (69 mph) will continue to buffet the coast, causing more tree damage and power outages into Friday morning. Winds will gradually ease Friday into Friday night as the cyclone pushes away.
Bands of heavy rain will continue to stream over Saurashtra into the start of the weekend, threatening to trigger flash flooding in a few communities. The steadiest and most persistent heavy rain is anticipated through Friday before the downpours become more localized Friday night into Saturday.
Even as the wind and heavy rain ease, seas will remain too dangerous for boaters and swimmers to enter through this weekend.
While initially pushing away from Gujarat early in the weekend, Vayu will reverse course and push back into Gujarat and into northwestern India later this weekend and into early next week.
“However, Vayu will be significantly weaker by this time,” said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Jason Nicholls. Vayu is expected to be no stronger than a depression when it reaches Gujarat.
The combination of the weakened state of Vayu and another disturbance will deliver spotty showers and thunderstorms from Gujarat to parts of Rajasthan, northwestern Madhya Pradesh and the National Capital Region (NCR).
A significant amount of rain is not anticipated, and residents will have to remain alert for local downpours, lightning dangers, isolated damaging winds and blowing dust that can occur.
However, the rain will be a welcome sight with the monsoon projected to be delayed well beyond its normal start date.
The monsoon typically advances to most of Madhya Pradesh by June 15, the NCR by the end of June and central Rajasthan by July 1.
“This year, the monsoon may not start until the final week of June into the start of July in Madhya Pradesh,” said Nicholls, who first warned that the monsoon would be slow to advance across northern India back in April.
“It may take until July 3-9, and likely closer to the latter part of that time frame, for the monsoon to be declared in the NCR and then mid-July for western Rajasthan,” he added.
The start of the monsoon is also running behind in southern India, where it has only been declared in Kerala and southern Tamil Nadu.
“The monsoon may finally start in Chennai late next week, but it may get underway first in Mumbai,” Nicholls said.
While the monsoon is vital for the region’s water supply and agricultural industry, residents are faced with the hazards of severe flooding, landslides and lightning strikes each monsoon. Hundreds of people have been killed each year amid the monsoon downpours.