June 12 (UPI) -- Cyclone Vayu, the equivalent of a Category 2 hurricane, has taken a sharp turn to the west and will spare the western Indian state of Gujarat from the most destructive wind and torrential rain.
More than a quarter of a million people have been evacuated from communities along coastal Gujarat, according to the Times of India.
Vayu is expected to remain a very severe cyclonic storm as it parallels the coast into Friday.
A cyclone this strong has not tracked this close to Gujarat since an extreme severe cyclonic storm made landfall near India's border with Pakistan in May 1999. The previous year, a very severe cyclonic storm slammed into Gujarat near Porbandar in June.
Vayu is occurring less than two months after Fani killed more than two dozen people in northeastern India and Bangladesh in early May. An extremely severe cyclonic storm -- the equivalent of a Category 3 hurricane -- when it slammed onto the coast of Odisha, Fani was stronger than Vayu is expected to be at landfall.
Residents and officials are breathing a sigh of relief as Vayu has taken a turn to the west. That should allow the worst of the dangerous cyclone to narrowly miss the coast.
Despite that, bands of heavy rain and strong winds are still expected to spread up the coast into Friday.
Wind gusts of 40-60 mph with an AccuWeather Local StormMax of 69 mph can buffet the coast, causing tree damage and power outages.
Seas will remain extremely dangerous for anyone to enter the water.
Homes and businesses along the coast of Gujarat may be subject to storm surge flooding. This includes along the Gulf of Khambhat as the water is funneled toward the coast.
Downpours can drop 1 inch to 3 inches across western Saurashtra through Friday, threatening to cause flash flooding in some communities. An AccuWeather Local StormMax of 8 inches cannot be ruled out in the most persistent downpours.
Beyond Friday, Vayu will gradually weaken over the open waters of the northern Arabian Sea.
Schools and colleges in the district of Rajkot canceled classes on Thursday, according to India Today. The government has deployed 36 teams to aid rescue and relief operations in areas in the path of the cyclone.
Flight operations at airports in Gujarat have been halted for Thursday, while ferry services were suspended in Mumbai.
Mumbai is likely to escape the onslaught of flooding downpours expected for the southwestern coast and the significant impacts from the cyclone that Gujarat may face," according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Adam Douty.
"There can still be gusty showers and thunderstorms that can produce [3 inches to 6 inches] of rain and travel disruptions this week," he added.
As strong winds buffeted the city earlier on Wednesday, the Times of India reports that a 62-year-old pedestrian was killed when a aluminum composite sheet collapsed.
South of Vayu, moisture will continue to steadily stream onto the southwestern coast of India through the remainder of this week.
The persistent downpours can lead to an AccuWeather Local StormMax of 15 inches along the coast from Goa to Kerala this week. The hardest-hit areas can face flooding and evacuations.