India, hard hit by COVID-19, faces intensifying Tropical Cyclone Tauktae

Tropical Cyclone Tauktae rapidly intensified Sunday into a Category 4 storm, passing uncomfortably close to the west coast of India. The big picture: Packing maximum sustained winds of at least 140 mph, Tauktae (pronounced “Tau’Te”), rapidly intensified Sunday, becoming a Category 4 storm capable of inflicting extreme damage. The cyclone is producing heavy rains and gusty winds along the coast, along with coastal flooding from wind-driven waves. Get market news worthy of your time with Axios Markets. Subscribe for free.While its strongest winds and heaviest rains will remain just offshore as it makes its closest pass to Mumbai, the city will feel its effects during the next 12-24 hours. The storm comes as India continues to reel from the impacts of the devastating coronavirus outbreak there, which has claimed tens of thousands of lives. Details: The India Meteorological Department (IMD), along with the U.S. Joint Typhoon Warning Center, is predicting the storm will make landfall on May 17 along the coast of Gujarat, bringing a wall of water onshore to the east of the storm’s center. Storm surge heights could exceed 3 meters, or 10 feet, the IMD predicts, though the worst coastal flooding may not affect highly populated areas. The most severe effects of the storm, in the form of flooding rains, storm surge flooding, and high winds appears poised to hit the city of Ahmedabad, which has a population of between 5 and 6 million. Once the storm makes landfall, its rains will spread inland, posing a flooding threat all the way northeastward toward New Delhi. #CycloneAlert The cyclonic storm “Tauktae” has further intensified into an Extremely Severe Cyclonic Storm (ESCS) at 000 UTC and lay centered at 18.5N/71.5E, with a ragged eye.— India Meteorological Department (@Indiametdept) May 17, 2021 Threat level: The storm is likely to continue intensifying into Sunday night, with waters of the East Arabian Sea sufficiently warm to support a high-end tropical cyclone. It is likely to make landfall Monday evening IST in the state of Gujarat, as at least a Category 2, but possibly an even stronger cyclone. While India has made great strides in recent years when it comes to storm preparation and evacuations, greatly lowering the death toll from such extreme weather events, the challenges COVID-19 brings present a wild card in such efforts.It is likely that the storm will disrupt the flow of coronavirus aid, from oxygen bottles to other needed equipment, to heavily populated areas, including Mumbai, Ahmedabad, and possibly New Delhi later in the week. More from Axios: Sign up to get the latest market trends with Axios Markets. Subscribe for free

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