Yemen’s Take Two

Cyclone Megh, before it struck Socotra (via NASA | Al Jazeera)

Yemen, a country that generally sees a tropical cyclone show up once every decade or so, looks like it may be about to see its second one in about a week. Cyclone Megh hit Socotra Island yesterday and looks poised to make landfall somewhere between central and western Yemen, probably tomorrow. Megh was a category two/three storm when it hit Socotra, but Jeff Masters at Weather Underground thinks it will probably weaken to a tropical storm by the time it makes landfall, although it could still be a category one at that point. I’m not sure it matters that much, since the biggest problem a tropical system like this poses for a country like Yemen is the rain, not the wind. Megh will drop less rain on Yemen than Chapala, but it will still drop a whole lot of rain on a country that has already had far more rain than it can handle this month.

It’s probably not a surprise that two tropical cyclones hitting Yemen in the same year, let alone the same week, is unprecedented so far as anyone knows. From Masters:

Megh is the second major Category 3 or stronger tropical cyclone to affect Yemen this month. Just a week ago, Tropical Cyclone Chapala took advantage of the the warmest waters ever recorded in the Arabian Sea at this time of year to intensify into a top-end Category 4 storm with 155 mph winds (1-minute average). This made Chapala the second strongest tropical cyclone on record in the Arabian Sea, behind Category 5 Cylcone Gonu of 2007, the only Category 5 storm ever recorded in the Arabian Sea (Gonu peaked at 165 mph winds). Chapala went on to devastate Yemen’s Socotra Island and mainland Yemen near the port city of Mukalla on November 3, killing at least eight people and causing widespread destructive flooding. According to NOAA’s Historical Hurricanes tool, prior to this year, there had only been five major Category 3 or stronger tropical cyclones recorded in the Arabian Sea since accurate satellite records began in 1990, and an additional Category 3 storm that occurred in 1977. Thus, two major hurricanes in one month in the Arabian Sea is a remarkable occurrence.

Chapala did plenty of damage, and Megh’s forecast path suggests that it’s going to hit the more war-torn western part of the country directly, which means it could do a whole lot of damage as well even if it has weakened significantly by the time in makes landfall:

If you’re willing/able, please give something to help the Yemeni people. It’s been a pretty goddamn miserable year for them.

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