Hudhud Makes Landfall
Cyclone Hudhud is pounding the eastern seaboard of India today, with winds of up to 120 mph, heavy rains and flooding, especially in the city of Vizhakapatnam (“Vizag”), a major port and naval base. 400,000 people have been evacuated from coastal villages that are home to 14 million people. The Indian Ocean is a cyclone hot spot. Of the 35 deadliest storms in recorded history, 27 have come through the Bay of Bengal — and have landed in either India or Bangladesh. Meanwhile, in Japan, Typhoon Vongfong is sweeping through Okinawa and is on its way to the island of Kyushu, with winds of 110 mph.
What’s in a Name?: Confused about the difference between a hurricane, cyclone and typhoon? They are the same weather phenomenon, differing only in location! We use the term hurricane in the Atlantic and N.E. Pacific, whereas in the N.W. Pacific the same disturbance is called a typhoon. Cyclones occur in S. Pacific and Indian Ocean (http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/cyclone.html).
Hudhud is for the Birds: Curious about this cyclone’s name? Named by the country Oman, hudhud is the colorful-crowned hoopoe bird (Upupa epops), found through Afro-Eurasia. While Americans have been naming hurricanes since 1953, cyclones have long been anonymous affairs. It was not until 2004 that eight countries (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Maldives along with Myanmar, Oman, Sri Lanka and Thailand) came together with a list of 64 names for cyclones. Each country gets its turn, and the names are not in alphabetical order. Watch out Nilofar (Pakistan), Priya (Sri Lanka) and Komen (Thailand) in the coming months!
Staying Safe: India’s disaster response is improving. Last year, a million people were evacuated out of the path of Phailin, the strongest cyclone in a decade, minimizing deaths to 25. Growing up in the coastal city of Calcutta, at the head of the Bay of Bengal, I recall being carried home from school through terrifying, swirling, waist-high waters. Here’s wishing that the people of Andhra and Odisha stay safe!
For news and photos of today’s cyclone, check on G+ or Twitter for #hudhudcyclone.