Cyclone Nisarga was the equivalent of a Category 1 hurricane Wednesday. Photo courtesy of CIRA/RAMMB
June 3 -- Nisarga battered western India with torrential rainfall and damaging winds into Wednesday evening after becoming the first tropical cyclone in recorded history to strike the city of Mumbai and surrounding districts during the month of June.
As a severe cyclonic storm on the India Meteorological Department's tropical cyclone scale and the equivalent of a Category 1 hurricane in the Atlantic and East Pacific Ocean basins, Nisarga crashed ashore in the state of Maharashtra Wednesday afternoon, local time, just south of the town of Alibagh.
After moving inland, Nisarga lost wind strength quickly, and was downgraded to a cyclonic storm and then a deep depression, equivalent to a tropical storm in the Atlantic Ocean, Wednesday evening.
Mumbai, the country's financial center and home to more than 18 million people, is rarely impacted by tropical cyclones and, prior to Nisarga, had never been hit by one in the month of June.
The IMD reported winds of 63 mph in Alibagh, just north of the landfall position. As of midday on Wednesday, rainfall amounts were climbing towards 2 inches in the surrounding area.
Nisarga's landfall in India comes about two weeks after Cyclone Amphan throttled the northeastern region and only several days after the country's government lifted many coronavirus lockdown restrictions.
India Prime Minister Narenda Modi was "taking stock" of the situation in western India ahead of the cyclone's arrival. "Praying for everyone's well-being. I urge people to take all possible precautions and safety measures," he wrote on Twitter.
On Tuesday night, Asia New International reported that 40,000 people were evacuated from their homes and moved to safer locations.
Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport in Mumbai minimized their flights on Tuesday night, and announced that the airport operations would be suspended because of the storm, instead redirecting flights to Ahmedabad, some 330 miles to the north. The airport reopened at 6 p.m. on Wednesday.
The Pune airport also announced a pause in flights on Wednesday afternoon as Nisarga made landfall, according to FlightAware.
The India Coast Guard took to the water on Tuesday to usher in fisherman still out at sea, urging them to come ashore as soon as possible. On Wednesday afternoon, reports came in that 10 sailors were rescued after high tides and heavy rains swept their ship out to sea.
Mumbai's Police Commissioner on Tuesday prohibited residents of the city to be out in public along the coast as Nisarga approaches, in order to help keep them safe.
The Chief Minister of Maharashtra, the region in which Mumbai is located, asked residents on Tuesday evening to remain indoors for the following two days in order to stay safe from Nisarga.
The government in Gujarat announced on Monday evening that they were deploying 10 of India's National Disaster Response Force teams in anticipation of the storm.
While winds have lessened with Nisarga, heavy rain could continue to impact the region. Into Thursday night, local time, widespread rainfall amounts of more than 4 inches are possible across southern Gujarat and Maharashtra, with an AccuWeather Local StormMax of 9 inches.
Into Thursday, Nisarga is forecast to continue to lose wind strength. Even so, the heavy rainfall is likely to drift into central India, dousing the region with tropical downpours into the end of the week. Central Maharashtra to southern Madhya Pradesh.
Nisarga's landfall in the Mumbai region is a rare and unprecedented event.
"Prior to Nisarga, there had been no cyclonic storms that struck Mumbai/Bombay during the pre-monsoon period (May-June)," said AccuWeather lead international meteorologist Jason Nicholls.
Nicholls added that a total of three cyclonic storms have ever made landfall over or near Mumbai since 1891, and all three occurred in October and November. The latest was Phyan in 2009.
AccuWeather meteorologists have been tracking Nisarga's development through the basin since last week when it emerged as a tropical low. The system strengthened to a depression on Monday morning, local time, before being upgraded to a deep depression. On Tuesday afternoon local time, Nisarga was officially designated a Cyclonic Storm.