Cyclones are typical for Mozambique during this season but there are growing concerns that the weather patterns have increased in intensity. Tropical cyclone, Idai made it the seventh major cyclone of the Indian Ocean season so far, more than twice the average number for this time of the year. The system was generated off the coast of Tanzania and drifted east toward Madagascar over the weekend as a weak tropical storm before turning back west toward the African continent. As it fueled its energy from the warm waters of the Mozambique channel, the storm underwent a rapid intensification with maximum sustained winds rising from 45 mph to 105 mph over a 24-hour period. The cyclone kept escalating with winds reaching 120 mph on Monday, the equivalent of a major Category 3 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale.
Cyclone Idai gathered all its strength and made landfall in the city of Beira in Sofala Province, Mozambique, between 12:00 and 12:30 a.m. local time early Friday morning bringing with it, high wind speeds equivalent to borderline Category 2-3 hurricane. The cyclone delivered a massive punch to the country when it made landfall and pre-cyclone flooding in Mozambique has already killed 66 people. An additional 45 people have lost their lives in Malawi as a result of flooding on Wednesday. Flooding has also destroyed more than 5,700 homes and impacted more than 140,000 people in the southern African country. Idai is moving slowly in a westerly direction over Mozambique and the country is still under red alert due to the continuing heavy rains, highly destructive winds and more flooding associated with Idai.
Life-threatening coastal and inland flooding is at risk from Inhassoro to Quelimane where 200-300 mm of rain is expected close to the city of Beira (Figure 1). Storm surge, which is an onshore surge of seawater caused by the storm is another big concern and it is the leading cause of deaths associated with tropical cyclones worldwide as it can happen quickly without allowing much time for preparation. Residents, particularly those living in low-lying areas near the coastline should prepare in advance and obey all evacuation orders.
To learn more about other extreme weather-related stories occurring across Africa, be sure to click here
© 2019 Oceanographer Daneeja Mawren