Indian cyclone fact sheet

The Indian "Super Cyclone" developed in the Bay of Bengal in October 1999 and became the strongest and deadliest cyclone in the region since the Bangladesh cyclone of April 1991. Some of the details of the cyclone and its effects are summarised below.

The tropical cyclone

There is a split season for cyclone development in the Bay of Bengal which corresponds with the onset and retreat of the Indian monsoon. Hence, most cyclones are experienced in the months April to June and September to November.

Here is the life cycle of the cyclone.

  • 24 October: An area of disturbed weather formed in the Gulf of Thailand
  • 25 October: This disturbance moved north-westwards across the Malay peninsula into the Andaman Sea
  • 26 October: A tropical storm formed (winds greater than 39 m.p.h.) as the cyclone continued to move into the Bay of Bengal
  • 27 October: The cyclone gained hurricane/typhoon strength (winds of 74 m.p.h.) and continued to move north-westwards towards India
  • 29 October: Sustained winds peaked at an estimated 160 m.p.h. as the cyclone made landfall over the Indian state of Orissa
  • 30 October: The cyclone started to weaken, but slowed and began to drift south back out to sea
  • 1 November: The cyclone weakened to a depression as it continued its drift southwards just off the coast

05b_ob

The observed track from 26 October to 1 November

The North Indian Ocean is the only area of the world where tropical cyclones are not given names. However, the Joint Typhoon Warning Center in Hawaii gives identifiers to all tropical cyclones and this one was designated as "05B".

The human cost

As of 10 November 1999 the death toll was estimated at 7,500*, but expected to rise to near 10,000. Over ten million were affected by the cyclone of which at least a million have been made homeless.

* source: ReliefWeb

The records

The previous strongest cyclone in this region was in April 1991. This cyclone struck Bangladesh with estimated winds of 160 m.p.h. and a central pressure of 898 mb. Some 138,000 lives were lost as a result of this cyclone.

The most devastating cyclone in this region hit Bangladesh in 1970 and claimed at least 300,000 lives.

The 1999 cyclone ranks as one of the strongest recorded in this region, but as is often the case, it was the heavy rainfall, storm surge and the associated flooding rather than the wind strength which caused most of the devastation and deaths. Some unconfirmed reports suggest a storm surge of up to 20 feet and inundation up to nine miles inland occurred.

Over recent years several other cyclones have caused damage and loss of life in India.

Just two weeks prior to this cyclone, another with winds of near 135 m.p.h. struck a little further down the coast claiming at least 70 lives and making over 40,000 homeless.

The Gujarat province was struck by a cyclone with winds of 115 m.p.h. in June 1998 and was struck again a little further up the coast less than a year later in May 1999 with winds of 125 m.p.h. This latter cyclone affected over 600,000 people and claimed around 400 lives.

A cyclone with winds of 135 m.p.h. struck the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh in November 1996 claiming 2,000 lives.

In November 1989 Typhoon Gay (which formed and was named in the Gulf of Thailand) crossed the Bay of Bengal and struck Andhra Pradesh with winds of near 160 m.p.h.

Additional notes

This fact sheet was compiled with information obtained from the Joint Typhoon Warning Center, Hawaii.

Last updated: 3 November 2011