23 May 2018 – WMO
Very severe Cyclonic Storm Mekunu has formed in the Arabian Sea and is intensifiying on a path towards Oman and Yemen, It follows less than a week after cyclone Sagar, which caused flash floods and casualties in Yemen, Somalia and Djibouti. Meteorological services are issuing regular warnings in an effort to keep loss of life and property to a minimum.
WMO’s Regional Specialized Meteorological Centre(RSMC) New Delhi, operated by the India Meteorological Department, forecasts that Mekunu will intensify further as it moves north-northwestwards. It is expected to cross the South Oman and Southeast Yemen coasts and make landfall near the port town of Salalah (Oman) on 26 May as a very severe cyclonic storm with maximum sustained wind speed of 150-160 kilometers per hour gusting to 180 km/h. This is the equivalent of a category 2 hurricane on the Saffir Simpson scale.
On 23 May, On 23 May, warnings in Yemen were upgraded to a maximum Red Alert. Oman’s Directorate-General of Meteorology and its National Multi-Hazard Early Warning System is issuing regular updates about weather conditions and hazards at sea.
In addition to the high winds, the main hazards from Mekunu will be the heavy precipitation and flash flooding. Some forecasts predict that months worth of rain will fall in a matter of hours.
Above average Southwest Arabian sea surface temperatures of 29-31° Celsius are conducive to the development and intensification of tropical cyclones.
Cyclones striking the Arabian Peninsula are rare but not exceptional.
In May 2007, Super Cyclonic Storm Gunu killed 50 people and caused about US$4.2 billion in damage in Oman. It dropped as much as 610 mm of rain near the eastern coastline, causing flooding and heavy damage. In June 2010 Very Severe Cyclonic Storm Phet moved across eastern Oman, causing floods, wrecking homes and causing casualties.
Yemen was hit by extremely severe cyclonic storm Chapala (the equivalent of a category 4) in November 2015. Thanks to evacuations ahead of the storm, the casualty toll was reported at just 8, but economic and structural damages were severe. Extremely severe cyclonic storm Megh hit the Yemeni island of Socotra just days after Chapala.
Yemen is especially vulnerable to the impacts of Mekunu, which comes hard on the heels of Sagar. Djibouti and northern Somalia bore the brunt of the impacts of Sagar, which destroyed homes and washed away property and livestock and reportedly claimed about 20 lives.