Super Cyclonic Storm Gonu (also simply known as Cyclone Gonu) is the strongest tropical cyclone on record in the Arabian Sea, and is also the strongest named cyclone in the northern Indian Ocean. The second named tropical cyclone of the 2007 North Indian Ocean cyclone season, Gonu developed from a persistent area of convection in the eastern Arabian Sea on June 1, 2007. With a favorable upper-level environment and warm sea surface temperatures, it rapidly intensified to attain peak winds of 235 km/h (145 mph) on June 4, according to the India Meteorological Department. Gonu weakened after encountering dry air and cooler waters, and early on June 6, it made landfall on the easternmost tip of Oman, becoming the strongest tropical cyclone to hit the Arabian Peninsula. It then turned northward into the Gulf of Oman, and dissipated on June 7 after making landfall in southern Iran, the first landfall in the country since 1898.
Intense tropical cyclones like Gonu are extremely rare over the Arabian Sea, and most storms in this area tend to be small and dissipate quickly. The cyclone caused 50 deaths and about $4.2 billion in damage (2007 USD) in Oman, where the cyclone was considered the nation's worst natural disaster. Gonu dropped heavy rainfall near the eastern coastline, reaching up to 610 mm (24 inches), which caused flooding and heavy damage. In Iran, the cyclone caused 28 deaths and $216 million in damage (2007 USD).
Toward the end of May 2007, the monsoon trough spawned a low pressure area in the eastern Arabian Sea. By May 31, an organized tropical disturbance was located about 645 km (400 mi) south of Mumbai, India, with cyclonic convection, or thunderstorm activity, and a well-defined mid-level circulation. The disturbance initially lacked a distinct low-level circulation; instead it consisted of strong divergence along the western end of a surface trough of low pressure. A favorable upper-level environment allowed convection to improve, and by late on June 1, the system developed to the extent that the India Meteorological Department (IMD) classified it as a depression. It tracked westward along the southwestern periphery of a mid-level ridge over southern India. Convection continued to organize, and early on June 2 the Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC) classified it Tropical Cyclone 02A about 685 km (425 mi) southwest of Mumbai.
Upon first forming, the system contended with the entrainment of dry air to the northwest of the storm, which was expected to limit intensification. The storm steadily intensified, and early on June 2 the IMD upgraded it to deep depression status. Later in the day the IMD classified the system as Cyclonic Storm Gonu about 760 km (470 mi) southwest of Mumbai, India. As a mid-latitude trough developed over Pakistan, Gonu turned to the north and northeast, though it resumed a westward track after ridging built to the north of the storm. With a solid area of intense convection, it rapidly intensified to attain severe cyclonic status early on June 3, and with good outflow the JTWC upgraded it to the equivalent of a minimal hurricane. The dry air ultimately had a smaller impact on the intensification than previously estimated. A well-defined eye developed in the center of convection, and after moving over a local increase in ocean heat content, Gonu rapidly deepened.
Late on June 3, the IMD upgraded the storm to Very Severe Cyclonic Storm Gonu. With warm waters, low amounts of vertical wind shear, and favorable upper-level outflow, Gonu strengthened further to attain peak 1-min sustained winds of 270 km/h (165 mph) and gusts to 315 km/h (195 mph), about 285 km (175 mi) east-southeast of Masirah Island on the coast of Oman. The IMD upgraded it to Super Cyclonic Storm Gonu late on June 4, with peak 3-min sustained winds reaching 240 km/h (150 mph) and an estimated pressure of 920 mbar. This made it the first super cyclonic storm in the Arabian Sea on record.
After the storm maintained peak winds for about six hours, the IMD downgraded Gonu to very severe cyclonic storm status late on June 4. Its eye became cloud-filled and ragged, and the cyclone gradually weakened due to cooler water temperatures and drier air as it approached the Arabian Peninsula. Due to land interaction with Oman, the inner core of deep convection rapidly weakened, and over a period of 24 hours the intensity decreased by 95 km/h (60 mph). According to the IMD, Cyclone Gonu crossed the easternmost tip of Oman still as a very severe cyclonic storm early on June 6. Although the winds continued to gradually decrease, overall organization increased slightly in the hours prior to landfall; Gonu maintained a well-defined low-level structure with a weak eye.
After emerging into the Gulf of Oman, the cyclone briefly re-intensified slightly, possibly due to the warm waters. However, increasing wind shear and entrainment of dry air from the Arabian Peninsula continued to remove deep convection from its eastern semicircle. On June 6, the cyclone turned to the north-northwest, and later that day the JTWC downgraded Gonu to tropical storm status. The IMD followed suit by downgrading Gonu to severe cyclonic storm status, and later to cyclonic storm status early on June 7. Gonu crossed the Makran coast in Iran six hours later, and the IMD stopped issuing advisories on the cyclone. This made it the first tropical cyclone on record to hit the country since 1898. After landfall, Gonu persisted as a remnant low over Iran through June 8.
The Oman Chairman of the National Committee for Civil Defence, General Malek Bin Sulaiman Al Ma'amari, remarked the nation had already developed a contingency plan, which included the activation of army and police personnel after the storm's passage. Significant damage was expected, especially in northeastern areas, along with up to 150 mm (6 in) of rainfall and very strong winds. Officials recommended citizens evacuate from potentially affected areas, and about 7,000 people were forced to leave Masirah Island due to the threat of high surf and strong winds. Overall, more than 20,000 people evacuated to emergency shelters. A state of emergency was declared for the nation. The Omani national weather service warned that the cyclone was expected to be worse than the destructive cyclone that hit Masirah Island in 1977. The Mina al Fahal oil terminal closed for over three days due to the threat of the storm. Omani officials closed government offices for two days and declared a five-day-long national holiday. Most businesses near the coastline were closed prior to the announcement. Authorities at the Muscat International Airport (then named as Seeb International Airport) and Salalah International Airport canceled all flights after 2000 UTC on June 5 due to the cyclone.
In Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, both members of OPEC, no official warnings had been issued due to Gonu. The storm was not expected to disrupt oil supplies from these two nations. However, oil prices rose early on June 5 because of concerns of disruptions caused by Gonu, as well as the threat of nationwide strikes in Nigeria, Africa's biggest oil producer. Crude oil for July delivery rose $1.13, or 1.7 percent, to $66.21 Monday on the New York Mercantile Exchange, the highest close in 15 days. Futures reached $66.48, the highest intraday price since April 30. The contract was at $65.95 a barrel, down 26 cents, in after-hours electronic trading at 9:43 a.m. Tuesday in Singapore. Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst at the Oil Price Information Service, said he doubted the increase could be attributed to Gonu. "I don't know if you can really attribute any of the gain to the cyclone," he said. "It's an excuse, as opposed to a reason, for the rise in prices."
In Pakistan, officials recommended fishermen remain within 50 km (30 mi) of the coastline, due to anticipated rough waves in the open ocean. Naval authorities in the United States warned ships to avoid the cyclone in the Arabian Sea.
The Iran Department of Meteorology declared storm warnings for the country's southeastern coastline; the agency anticipated moderate to severe precipitation and gusty winds. Prior to the arrival of the cyclone, about 40,000 people, including around 4,000 students at the International University of Chabahar, evacuated coastal areas of the country to at least 1 km (0.6 mi) inland. All flights in and out of the Konarak Airport were canceled during a 48-hour period. Additionally, all hospitals in Sistan and Baluchestan Province were put on red alert. The Iran chapter of the Red Cross advanced the delivery of necessary relief supplies.
Across its path, Cyclone Gonu caused heavy damage and many fatalities. About seven hours before passing near the northeastern Oman coastline, Cyclone Gonu began affecting the country with rough winds and heavy precipitation; rainfall totals reached 610 mm (24 in) near the coast. Gonu produced strong waves along much of the coastline, leaving many coastal roads flooded. There was a 5.1 meter (17 foot) storm surge and a 200 m (660 ft) incursion of seawater inland at Ras al-Hadd; other areas along the coast had similar levels.
Strong winds knocked out power and telephone lines across the eastern region of the country, leaving thousands isolated until the lines were repaired hours later. The cyclone caused extensive damage along the coastline, including in the city of Sur and the village of Ras al Hadd at the easternmost point of the Omani mainland. In Muscat, winds reached 100 km/h (62 mph), leaving the capital city without power. Strong waves and heavy rainfall flooded streets and some buildings. Police workers in the city sent text messages to keep people away from flooded streets to prevent electrocutions. Little damage was reported to the oil fields of the nation. The liquefied natural gas terminal in Sur, which handles 10 million tonnes of gas each year, was badly hit by the storm and could not be operated. Overall, the cyclone killed 50 people in the country; by the fourth day after it struck the country, 27 people had been reported missing. Around 20,000 people were affected, and damage in the country was estimated at around $4.2 billion (2007 USD).
United Arab Emirates
Fierce waves pushed large amounts of water to coastal areas in Fujairah of the United Arab Emirates, forcing roads to be closed and traffic diverted. Civil defence and police were on duty to manage the road closures, while municipal workers pumped the excess water off the roads. The road connecting Kalba and Fujairah was closed due to the road being submerged by water. The waves along the coastline were reported to be 10 m (32 ft) high, which destroyed about a dozen fishing boats. About 300 boats were moved from the water or emptied of equipment, and overall damage to the port of Fujairah was reported as severe. A boat sank by the port, leaving its ten passengers missing.
Upon striking Iran, Gonu dropped moderate to heavy rainfall, including 74 mm (2.91 in) in the city of Chabahar. Winds reached 111 km/h (69 mph), which caused power outages and damaged some homes made of clay; the power outage led to some fires across the city. The rainfall flooded at least 40 houses, and resulted in the temporary closure of several major roads. Cyclone Gonu produced a storm tide of 2 m (6.5 ft) in some locations, with many homes near the coastline receiving damage. In Jask, heavy rainfall overflowed a river, killing three people in a vehicle caught in the water. Flooding from the rainfall also destroyed a dam in Nikshahr County. Throughout the country, the cyclone caused 28 deaths, including 20 from drowning; damage in Iran was estimated at 2 billion (2007 IRR, $216 million 2007 USD).
Cyclone Gonu caused strong gusty winds and torrential rainfall along Pakistan's Arabian Sea coast from Karachi to Gwadar. The cyclone was reported to have sunk a number of boats off the eastern coast of Gwadar. It was feared that fishing launches that had ventured into the open sea may have been stranded. At least three houses and one school were destroyed and 210 anchored fishing boats were badly damaged anchored in the coastal town of Sar Bandar in Baluchistan province
The Muscat International Airport reopened after three days while Fujairah reopened on June 7 after it was closed the day before. The cyclone caused little impact to oil facilities along its path; after the initial price rises, oil dropped over USD2 per barrel as a result. Across the northern Arabian Sea, the passage of Gonu produced stronger winds and significant upwelling – an oceanographic phenomenon that involves the replacement of the nutrient-depleted surface water with deeper nutrient-rich water; the passage caused a significant increase in phytoplankton. Additionally, the cyclone delayed the arrival of the Indian Ocean south-west monsoon in the Western Ghats in India.
In Oman, production of desalinated water was interrupted, as both of Oman's desalination plants failed. The first, Ghubrah, lost supplies of natural gas, halting production; while the second, Barka, sustained a damaged switchgear due to flooding. These plants provided water to Muscat's 631,000 residents and surrounding areas, triggering severe water shortages across eastern Oman. To rectify the situation, officials used water tanks. The water returned to near normal in five days, as the two plants returned to service. Additionally, electricians worked quickly to repair the power outages across the region. Five days after Gonu hit, utilities were restored to most of Muscat and the coastal provinces. The Omani army assisted residents in returning to their houses. Even though the Omani government did not request any international aid, the United States offered assistance through naval ships in the area; this was eventually rejected. The country lost an estimated $200 million (2007 USD) in oil exports. In the months after the storm, the government allocated funds for the removal of debris and trees, as well as restoration of roads in tourist areas. Additionally, the National Committee for Civil Defence set up 139 buildings to provide temporary housing for 8,192 people. Services such as water and electricity were gradually restored, and people returned to their homes. By two weeks after the storm's passage, most of those remaining in shelters were from Qurayat, one of the most severely affected villages.
After the passage of the cyclone, the Iran chapter of the Red Cross and its volunteers worked in conjunction with the military to distribute relief supplies to villages using trucks and helicopters. The branch in Sistan and Baluchestan Province distributed over 10,000 blankets, 1,300 tents, 400 clothing items, 82,000 loaves of bread, and 87,000 bottles of water to affected citizens. In total, 61,558 families received aid from the Red Cross in Iran. The Iranian government provided monetary relief to the affected people. Officials worked to restore roads, bridges, and power systems in the affected areas, although repairs were more difficult in some locations; by a week after the storm, several villages remained surrounded by floodwaters.
Cyclone Gonu set several intensity records. When it became a very severe cyclonic storm on June 3, Gonu became the strongest tropical cyclone on record in the Arabian Sea. Later, it became the only super cyclonic storm, which is a tropical cyclone with 3-minute sustained winds of at least 220 km/h (140 mph), in the region. The JTWC estimated peak winds of 270 km/h (165 mph). Based on their estimate, Gonu was tied with the 1991 Bangladesh cyclone for the strongest tropical cyclone in the entire northern Indian Ocean, and had the highest windspeed of any cyclone in this basin. On June 6, Gonu made landfall in extreme eastern Oman with winds of 150 km/h (90 mph), making it the strongest tropical cyclone on record to strike the Arabian Peninsula. With a damage total of $4.2 billion (2007 USD) and 50 deaths, Gonu became the worst natural disaster on record in Oman. Additionally, the storm was only the second cyclonic storm on record to strike Iran, the other doing so on June 4, 1898.
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Cyclone Gonu - the equivalent of a Category 1 hurricane - reached Oman's coast Wednesday 6 June with fierce winds and torrential rains, forcing thousands from their homes and shutting down oil installations. Even with the weaker wind speeds, Gonu is believed to be the strongest cyclone to threaten the Arabian Peninsula since record-keeping started in 1945. The cyclone initially generated winds of 160mph (260km/h) and by Thursday afternoon, the storm sustained winds of up to 67 kph (41 mph), less than half its strength of 153 kph (95 mph) just 24 hours earlier, according to the Joint Typhoon Warning Center. The storm, which reached the equivalent of a maximum-force Category Five hurricane on Tuesday, has been downgraded to a Category One hurricane and on Thursday 7 June to a Tropical storm.
At least 12 deaths were reported in Oman, including members of police rescue squads, and others were reported missing, according to the Oman Royal Police. In Muscat, the cyclone resulted in abundant rainfall and howling winds. Muscat's mountain backdrop added to the havoc. The torrential rains that poured onto the bone-dry peaks flowed into canyons and dry riverbeds channeling water directly to the city.
Electricity went out in Muscat on Wednesday, and streets and some buildings were flooded. The Health Ministry informed that rescue workers had trouble reaching affected areas. Authorities used text messages to warn people away from low-lying areas. According to the Omani Minister of Social Development, more than 20,000 people were evacuated and housed in government-provided dwellings, stocked with medicine and supplies. Another two islands were completely evacuated. There were reports of people trapped in homes in low-lying areas of the capital. Other beachfront residents of the city were leaving their homes, all threatened by rising tides and large waves pushed by the approaching storm.
The storm, however, caused little damage to Oman's oil fields. Tankers were prevented from sailing from Omani ports, effectively shutting down oil exports, according to the Ministry of Oil and Gas. Authorities also closed all operations at the port of Sohar and Qabus in Muscat and evacuated 11,000 workers. Sohar's oil refinery and petrochemical plant remained running at very low levels, with authorities considering a total shutdown on Wednesday.
Stock exchange as well as private and public institutions are closed until Saturday, while national carrier Oman Air had halted all flights. Flights in and out of Oman's Seeb International Airport were canceled. Flights en route to Muscat were diverted to other airports in the region.
Oman's eastern provinces were cut off, with heavy rains making the roads unusable and communication lines severed. The potential for flash flooding was high in Oman and in neighboring countries like the United Arab Emirates, as rain washes down from mountains into the desert wadis, or dry riverbeds that cut through the desert. There is a potential threat of landslides and mud slides when the normally arid mountains get lashed with rain.
Authorities declared a State of emergency in Oman's Masirah Island, first hit by the storm Tuesday. Troops and police were mobilized to help provide shelter and medical services.
Oil prices rose amid forecasts that Gonu is the strongest storm to threaten the Arabian Peninsula in 60 years. Analysts suggest that even if only some of the tankers are delayed, that could reduce the supply of oil and increase prices. However, the storm shouldn't have a major impact on prices. Shipping in the Strait of Hormuz, which carries up to 40% of world oil supplies, has not been disrupted.
Over 4,000 trained civil defense personnel were deployed in affected areas. Schools prepared to become safe heavens for those who had to flee their houses equipped with food, beddings and other necessary requirement. Assistance was offered to the Omani government by the Gulf Cooperation Countries members, other countries and international organizations including UNICEF. The Government of Oman thanked for the offer and said its own national resources are adequate for the time being. Other international partners were requested to be on standby.
IMPACT ON THE GULF AND SOUTH ASIA
To the north, the port of Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates suspended all refueling and ship-to-ship supply operations the world's third-largest shipping fuel center. A few ships were sailing through the nearby Strait of Hormuz despite 4- to 6-foot swells and strong winds. Saudi Arabia did not expect the storm to affect its oil-producing regions, which lie well to the west of the generally northward moving storm. Saudi King Abdullah offered Oman help in dealing with any problems caused by the storm according to the official Spa news agency.
The port city of Karachi in Pakistan is likely to be hit by the cyclone. Fishermen in the southwest were told to stay ashore for the next 24 hours. Rough seas have already damaged dozens of fishing boats in the southwestern Baluchistan province.
The cyclone has carried on north-west, gradually weakening as it approached the Iranian southern coastal provinces of Hormorzgan and Sistan Baluchestan, which lie only some 100 kilometres (60 miles) across the Gulf from northern Oman. The Organization of Weather of Iran stated that there has been 3 killed and 9 injured. Some 11 cities and ports in Iran's southern provinces have been hit by GONU. Authorities evacuated hundreds of people living in the port city of Chabahr on the coast of the Sea of Oman. According to the Iranian state television, floods caused by the heavy rainfall cut off some major roads in southeastern Iran. Subsequent to the declaration of 'extraordinary situation' in Chabahar, the Governor of Chabahar informed that residents living up to one kilometer off the sea coast, as well as all offices and the medical staff of the Imam Ali hospital have been evacuated and moved to a safe place. The staff of Imam Ali Hospital has set up a temporary medical emergency camp for any required treatment.
Outer winds from the storm as fast as 220 kph (137 mph) lashed the Iranian port city of Bandar Abbas, capital of Homorzgan province, shattering windows, toppling billboards and trees. Gonu reached Qishm Island and caused some damages. Electricity and telephone lines were cut off. As a result of Gonu, in Zahedan province, to the north of Sistan Baluchestan, around 40,000 people have been evacuated to higher areas. There has been more that 120 mm of rain in a day alone, resulting in flooding. Sea level has risen considerably. According to Iran's state broadcasting company, some small villages in Sistan Baluchistan province, on the Gulf of Oman, were still encircled by floods and authorities used helicopters to drop emergency supplies. It is expected that Gonu will reach South Khorasan, Kerman on Friday. It will end in Iran by Friday early evening.
According to Iranian officials, the cyclone was unlikely to threaten the country's oil platforms and installations in the Gulf because they are located far from its path. However, authorities have prepared for any possible difficulty..
The Government of Iran, the National Disaster Task Force and the Iranian Red Crescent Society (IRCS) are fully mobilized and held an emergency meeting with the participation of the authorities of Ministries of Transportation, Power, Oil, and Revolutionary Guard in the affected provinces. Necessary coordination mechanisms were made Radio and TV broadcasted programmes to alert inhabitants residing in south and south eastern provinces to be prepared for evacuation from coastlines of Oman and Persian Gulfs and rivers riparian. The Iranian Red Crescent Society dispatched equipment and relief workers from auxiliary provinces and determined places for emergency sheltering. Assessments will be carried out by the authorities as soon as the condition allows.
For both countries, there has been no request for international assistance and the situation is well under control, as a result of good early warning and preparedness mechanisms.
OCHA Iran has been in touch with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) and Ministry of Interior in Tehran, and UNICEF and UNHCR have been in touch with local authorities in Sistan-Baluchistan and stand ready to assist. UNHCR has distributed some non-food and food items including to Afghan refugees in the Zahedan area.
The Ministry of Interior and the Iranian Red Crescent Society are currently assisting affected population and there is no need for more assistance. The National Disaster Taskforce is distributing bread and water among affected population. Those residing in the coastal areas have left their houses and gone to higher places. However those living in big cities are returning. All executive branches of the government are on call and stand ready to assist the population. UN agencies on the ground continue to monitor the situation closely and will remain on stand-by to respond until the week end.
Map: Oman, Iran: Cyclone Gonu - Situation Map
In case of emergency only:Tel. + 41-22-917 20 10
Desk Officer (New York) Ms. Heidi KuttabTel: + 1-917-367-3365
Press contact: (Geneva)Ms. Elizabeth Byrs Tel. + 41-22-917 2653
Press contact: (New York)Ms. Ms. Stephanie Bunker Tel: + 1-917-367-5126
To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit http://unocha.org/.