A large and very powerful tropical cyclone, known as Cyclone Phailin, is centered over the Bay of Bengal. The advisory issued Thursday afternoon from the U.S. Joint Typhoon Warning Center estimates the current intensity at 145 mph, which makes it the equivalent of a Category 4 hurricane in the Atlantic.
The waters are warm and the upper-level environment is favorable for some additional strengthening. The strong intensity combined with the large size makes this an extremely dangerous situation.
The cyclone is forecast to move northwestward toward the east coast of India. Landfall will likely occur on Saturday morning (EDT) but the impacts from storm surge, wind, and rain will cover large areas and will start well before landfall.
The deadliest hazard will likely be storm surge. The Bay of Bengal is noted for large loss of life in cyclones, especially from the resulting storm surges. A cyclone in 1970 caused an estimated 300,000 to 500,000 deaths in Bangladesh.
Let us hope that the emergency messaging is clear and people respond appropriately to prevent large loss of life.