Cyclonic storm expected to hit Al Wusta 6th June
"Gonu is expected to bring 1-minute maximum sustained winds to the region of around 120 km/h (74 mph). Wind gusts in the area may be considerably higher."
Read all about it.
I shall try to track the storm forecast.
Update on 4th June. The storm is now forecast to be on a more northerly track, so that it should pass over the Hajar Mountains south of Muscat. The severity of the storm has been upgraded to Very Severe Cyclonic Storm, where you can also see satellite photos.
Why should a storm be so interesting? Well, cyclones that 'hit' eastern Oman usually release a lot of rain. Al Wusta, the Interior region lying between the Indian Ocean and the Saudi border, relies on this rainfall to recharge wadi aquifers. Lenses of fresh water overlie saline groundwater. If the water supply in the aquifer is not kept in equilibrium, for example, the freshwater is over-pumped, the aquifer waters mix and cease to be usable as a freshwater supply.
If this cyclone is indeed going to take a more northerly track, it could produce results similar to the flooding events in northern Oman in March.
Update on 5th June. News reports say that the authorities have evacuated 7000 people.
At the moment, the Tropical Storm Risk website indicates that the eye of the storm Gonu will cross the Omani coast in the vicinity of Sur and take a more northerly track than predicted yesterday, over the Gulf of Oman, diminishing in intensity and then turning north to cross the southern coast of Iran.
But don't be distracted by the forecast track of the centre of the storm. It's the wind fields and the associated rain that you need to watch. At the moment, the forecast is that the area of intense wind and rain would take in all of northern Sharqiyah, the coast between Al Ashkhirah and Muscat and certainly as far inland as Nizwa.
You can see a dynamic map at this page.
In fact, the Indian Meteorological Service predicts a more southerly course for Gonu, which would take it right across northern Oman. Because weather systems are dynamic, it's impossible to say exactly what will happen.
In sh'Allah, the intensity of the storm will abate before it hits the coast and the track will move more to the north, but then somebody else will suffer the consequences.
Read the Reuters alert to learn about the degrees of storm and hurricane damage according to the Saffir-Simpson damage scale.
Update on June 6th. Overnight, Gonu is shown by available maps and satellite imagery to have tracked along the north coast of Oman from Sur towards Muscat, moving at around 15km/hour. The track has moved southwards from the route forecast yesterday.
This animation showing visible infrared satellite imagery is instructive, showing the course of the storm from yesterday. It appears to be being updated at hourly intervals with new data. http://cimss.ssec.wisc.edu/tropic/real-time/visir/indian/visirjava02A.html
At around 0200 UTC, Gonu appears to have 'split' into two, with two centres. The more northerly seems to have crossed the southern coast of Iran. The more southerly, and major centre is forecast to continue moving along the northern coast of Oman, skirting Fujairah and Musandam and then tracking north across the Straits of Hormuz into Iran. UAE is likely to be affected by the remnants of the system.
Originally categorised as a severe cyclonic storm, Gonu is likely to rapidly dissipate as it meets the hot, dry air over the Arabian Peninsula and Iran, and losing power over local upwelling of colder water downgrading to a tropical storm and then a tropical depression.
Wind speeds had been recorded of 140 to 167 km p hour but these are expected to die down rapidly to gusts of 56km/hour or less.
The media has been full of news of the impending storm for the last 24 hours.
The Omani press reported that the Civil Defence authorities had swung into action, evacuating people from low-lying areas, especially in Masirah and coastal areas of Sharqiyah. Many people removed themselves! Schools and government buildings were being pressed into action as refuges. Construction firms, such as Galfar, had issued orders that "every precaution be taken to ensure the safety of staff and equipment." That doesn't actually say Stop Work, does it?
PDO has suspended activity at least until Thursday. Interior regions are not expected to be as badly hit as the coast.
"In the Qurum area, shop owners were seen boarding up glass shop fronts and sandbagging entrances."
The Ministry of Health is on full alert, and stocks of food and bottled water have been laid in.
Meanwhile, Muscat waits. The Oman Observer reports that the storm is expected to reach the capital by this afternoon (1200 UTC). I've had an email which suggests that it has been raining all night, and a friend briefly online has told me that the storm is intensifying. The seas were reported to be raging last night.
Qurum and Madinat al Sultan Qaboos are without power. A friend suggested that this might be a planned outage, since the intake at the desalination plant would have to be protected against all the sediment churned up by the high seas. The Chedi Hotel has moved all its guests to the Radisson. The Royal Oman Police have closed all main roads.
At this time of writing, I have no reports of damage impact. That will come later. Flooding could be very extensive.
My thanks to Phillip Stallwood for the following photos:
Notice the construction workers on the fourth floor of this building block, watching the rain. Did they have anywhere else they could go?
Update on June 7th. Gonu tracked almost as far as Muscat before suddenly veering north across the Gulf of Oman yesterday afternoon. It lost a lot of power quite suddenly and is now ranked as a tropical depression. Even so, low-lying areas in southern Iran, which have also been suffering the brunt, have been cut off by flood waters,
Gulf News has photos of flooding and high seas in Fujairah.
This morning, I have no Oman contacts on line. I suspect power cuts and the BBC has mentioned water shortages. See the BBC video of flooding in Muscat. The Oman Observer has not been updated since yesterday, which also suggests loss of communications.
For a comprehensive report, see Storm lashes Oman, nears Strait of Hormuz as it heads toward Iran by Associated Press.
A Reuters alert published at 0720 GMT quoted a relief official as saying that at least 12 people had been confirmed dead as a result of the cyclone. This was updated later in the day to 20 dead in Oman and 24 missing.
Communications to the east of the country have been completely severed. Not even helicopters could fly during the storm. Muscat has lost power and communications, although there has been no reported damage to any oil and gas installations. Oil prices continue to waver with the prospect of tanker deliveries being delayed from the Gulf.
Relief efforts have been continuing. Muscat, it has been said, resembles a lake.
Two photos which arrived in a private mailing list this morning, as seen below, reveal what this means.
I think the rock fall shown is near the top of the pass from Wadi Al Kabir in Muscat to Al Bustan Palace Hotel. These images posted at Bhatkallys on 6th June.
Now the big mop-up. People have started returning to their homes. Flights from Seeb International Airport may resume on Friday 8th June, if conditions allow.