Consensus forecasts suggest that cyclone Lehar will hit Andhra Pradesh coast as a full-blooded ‘very severe cyclone’ in the next four to five days.
Internationally, it will be classified as number three on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale for storm strength. It is only one spin away from being called class-topping super cyclone.
A storm of this strength can cause total destruction of thatched houses and extensive damage to kutcha houses. There can be potential threat from flying objects.
Power and communication poles could get bent or even uprooted. Overhead power lines and signalling systems of the Railways may suffer minor damage.
The storm can bring about widespread damage to standing crops plantations and orchards; tear down palm fronds; and blow down bushy trees.
Storm surge of up to two metres may get generated and distances of up to 10 km at a stretch get inundated in specific areas.
Earlier forecasts by some weather models had suggested that Lehar may take a bow before closing in and weaken a round before making landfall.
But that scenario is being ruled out with the fleet-footed (lateral speed of 20 km/hr over water on Sunday) cyclone forcing itself into the open Bay of Bengal waters by Monday.
Environment at the ground and upper level is decidedly benign for the ‘storm tower’ to build and gather strength rapidly.
Lehar is forecast to attain the level of a very severe cyclone as early as Monday and will spare no punches when it barrels into the coast.
This is the third time on a trot that this region is bearing the brunt of cyclone fury (after Phailin and Helen) during the ongoing North-East monsoon season.
On Sunday, Lehar lay over the Andaman Sea, 200 km east-southeast of Port Blair. It will have crossed the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and emerged into southeast Bay on Monday.
It is then forecast to grow as a very severe cyclonic storm, hit the one-way highway to the Andhra Pradesh coast.
Lehar is forecast to cross the coast between Machilipatnam and Kalingapatnam near Kakinada by Thursday afternoon, according to initial forecasts.