India braces for Tropical Cyclone Vayu

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A lifeguard walks along at Girgaum Chowpatty beach following its closure in Mumbai on June 12, 2019.
A lifeguard walks along at Girgaum Chowpatty beach following its closure in Mumbai on June 12, 2019. PUNIT PARANJPE/AFP/Getty Images

Six million people could be impacted by Tropical Cyclone Vayu, which is barreling toward northwest India.

While the cyclone turned away from land on Wednesday, the India Meteorological Department is predicting the storm will “very likely” cross the Gujarat coast sometime on Thursday.

Nearly 300,000 people have been evacuated from low-lying areas in Gujarat to safer places in preparation for the cyclone. Schools and colleges in affected districts are closed until Friday, officials said.

What we know about the storm: Vayu formed Monday and strengthened Tuesday into a hurricane-strength tropical cyclone in the Arabian Sea. Powerful tropical cyclones rarely make it this far north in the Arabian Sea, and Gujarat state has not had a hurricane-strength storm make landfall in 20 years.

How powerful is it? With winds in excess of 120 kph (that’s about 75 mph), Tropical Cyclone Vayu could become the strongest cyclone to impact northwestern India in decades. It comes one month after powerful Tropical Cyclone Fani slammed into India’s northeastern coastline.

What to watch for: Coastal residents are preparing for a storm surge of up to 2 meters (6.5 feet), which could inundate parts of the low-lying coast of the Kutch district in Gujarat. India’s Meteorological Department is warning of the potential for heavy rainfall (over 200 millimeters or 8 inches) along the Gujarat coast.

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