Residents evacuate an elderly woman to a safer place through a flooded neighborhood during incessant heavy rains, in Chennai, India, on Thursday. Photo by Idrees Mohammed/EPA-EFE
Rounds of heavy rain that inundated parts of Sri Lanka and southeastern India this week caused severe flooding and mudslides that are being blamed for at least 41 deaths across the region.
Parts of Sri Lanka were drenched with heavy rain from last weekend into early this week with over 4 inches reported in some areas. The heaviest rain has since moved out of the country, but some showers and thunderstorms could stick around through the weekend, AccuWeather forecasters say.
As India’s northeast monsoon gets into full swing, heavy rain also fell in southern India across the state of Tamil Nadu this week. Flooding killed at least 16 in the state, according to the State Disaster Management Minister KKSSR Ramachandran.
India’s northeast monsoon is an annual occurrence that pumps moisture from the Bay of Bengal into southeastern India during the autumn and early winter which can result in heavy rain and flooding, according to AccuWeather senior meteorologist and lead international forecaster Jason Nicholls.
It is also not uncommon for tropical cyclones to develop across the southern Bay of Bengal and move into southeastern India during the northeast monsoon.
This is what happened this week as a tropical depression formed in the Bay of Bengal and moved inland across Tamil Nadu on Thursday, bringing another dose of heavy rain and gusty winds.
India’s Meteorological Department issued a red alert for the heavy rain across portions of Tamil Nadu on Thursday. A red alert is the highest warning level that the IMD issues, and it indicates a significant risk to life is possible.
From Sunday to Thursday, 12 inches of rain fell across Chennai leading to significant flooding. About 6 inches fell from Wednesday into Thursday alone as the tropical depression moved onshore. Photos showed some pedestrians being forced to carry bikes through deep water on flooded roads around the city.
The heavy rain caused damage to about 1,300 houses across Tamil Nadu and inundated more than 100,000 acres of croplands, according to CNN.
In addition to all of the rain, strong winds halted landings at Chennai’s airport for nearly five hours on Thursday, but departures were still permitted. Wind gusts at the airport approached 50 mph.
Due to the flooding and gusty winds, Sun News reported that 61,700 residents were without power on Thursday in Chennai.
“Rainfall will wind down in southern India on Friday, but scattered lighter rains will continue through the weekend,” according to Nicholls.
However, AccuWeather meteorologists say residents should not let their guard down yet.
Conditions look favorable for another tropical depression to form across the Bay of Bengal next week and move into southeastern India by late in the week, according to Nicholls. This could bring another round of heavy rain, flooding and gusty winds to the region.
“This time of year is the second peak for tropical development in the northern Indian Ocean,” said Nicholls. “The northern Indian Ocean is different from other basins that typically only have one peak in tropical activity. The first peak in tropical activity across the northern Indian Ocean happens from April to June while the second peak is October to December.”