DEADLY CYCLONE - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

DEADLY CYCLONE

BEHRAMPUR, India (AP) — Mass evacuations spared India the widespread deaths many had feared from a powerful cyclone that roared ashore over the weekend, officials said Sunday, as the country sorted through the wreckage of flooded towns, tangled power lines and tens of thousands of destroyed thatch homes.

Cyclone Phailin, the strongest storm to hit India in more than a decade, destroyed hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of crops, but more than 20 hours after it made landfall in Orissa state on the country's east coast, authorities said they knew of only 17 fatalities.

The final death toll is expected to climb further as officials reach areas of the cyclone-battered coast that remain isolated by downed communication links and blocked roads, but the evacuation of nearly 1 million people appeared to have saved many lives.

"Damage to property is extensive," said Amitabh Thakur, the top police officer in the Orissa district worst-hit by the cyclone. "But few lives have been lost," he said, crediting the mass evacuations.

On the highway to the seaside city of Gopalpur, where the storm made landfall early Saturday night, two tractor-trailers with shattered windshields were lying on their sides, while a hotel nearby was in tatters, with tables and chairs strewn about.

"We were terrified," A-1 Hotel owner Mihar Ranjan said of himself and 14 other people who had been huddling inside when the wind ripped the tin roof off the building.

On Sunday, Gopalpur's power lines sagged nearly to the ground and a strong surf churned off the coast. But some shops were opened, doing brisk business selling bottled drinks and snacks, and locals expressed relief that the damage wasn't worse.

A mermaid statue remained standing on Gopalpur's boardwalk, where most decorative street lamps still stood along with most of the city's buildings.

"Everyone feels very lucky," said Prabhati Das, a 40-year-old woman who came from the town of Behrampur, about 10 kilometers (7 miles) inland, to see the aftermath at the coast.

A cargo ship carrying iron ore, the MV Bingo, sank Saturday as the cyclone barreled through the Bay of Bengal, and its crew of 18 — including 17 Chinese and one Indonesian — went missing for a day, coast guard officials said. They were being rescued Sunday evening after their lifeboat was found about 185 kilometers (115 miles) off the Indian coast, coast guard Commandant Sharad Matri said.

Phailin weakened significantly after making landfall as a Category 4 storm, with sustained winds of up to 210 kilometers per hour (131 miles per hour), according to Indian meteorologists. Those numbers were slightly lower than the last advisory issued by the U.S. Navy's Hawaii-based Joint Typhoon Warning Center, which reported maximum sustained winds of about 222 kph (138 mph) and gusts up to 268 kph (167 mph) four hours before the storm hit land.

Midday on Sunday, some areas reported little more than breezy drizzles, with winds in some areas blowing at 161 kph (100 mph). Meteorologists warned that Orissa and other states in the storm's path would face heavy rains, strong winds and rough seas for several more hours.

"Its intensity is still strong, but after crossing the coast it has weakened considerably," Sharat Sahu, a top official with the Indian Meteorological Dept. in Orissa, told reporters.

Indian officials spoke dismissively of American forecasters who earlier had warned of a record-breaking cyclone that would drive a massive wall of water — perhaps as large as 9 meters high (30 feet high) — into the coastline.

"They have been issuing warnings, and we have been contradicting them," said L.S. Rathore, director-general of the Indian Meteorological Department. "That is all that I want to say."

"As a scientist, we have our own opinion and we stuck to that. We told them that is what is required as a national weather service — to keep people informed with the reality without being influenced by over-warning," he said at a news conference in New Delhi, the capital.

Predicting how massive storms will develop is difficult in the Bay of Bengal, where there are no tidal gauges, ocean buoys or aircraft flying into storms to measure winds directly. Instead, both U.S. and Indian meteorologists rely on satellite imagery to assess a storm's strength and path.

The Indian government had faced immense public criticism after its slow response to a series of deadly floods and mudslides in June in the northern state of Uttarakhand, where more than 6,000 people were killed.

But officials took few chances with Phailin, especially given memories of a 1999 Orissa cyclone that devastated the coastline and left at least 10,000 people dead.

Nearly 1 million people were evacuated from the coast ahead of Phailin, including more than 870,000 in Orissa and more than 100,000 in neighboring Andhra Pradesh.

Still, some either missed the evacuation or chose to ride out the storm near the coast, for fear of losing their homes and livestock to possible looting.

Truck driver M.D. Makasad Ali had set out Saturday night from the coast for Behrampur, but was forced by strong winds to pull over and shelter in his cab.

"At around midnight, the wind shook the truck and it fell over," the 25-year-old said. He managed to crawl out of a broken window and run for cover at a nearby hotel.

Carpenter Pitambar Moharanat, 65, spent the night terrified in his employer's seaside building in Gopalpur, where for six hours he listened to screaming winds shake the bolted wooden shutters until the winds eased at around 3 a.m.

"I am thanking God for sparing us," he said.

For days before the storm hit, officials had been stockpiling emergency food supplies and setting up hundreds of shelters. The Indian military put some forces on alert, with trucks, planes and helicopters at the ready for relief operations.

Electric utility authorities in Orissa switched off the power in 12 districts after scores of electric pylons toppled from the torrential rain and high winds.

The storm wreaked havoc in Behrampur, with the wind shattering windows, blowing down trees and electrical poles, and terrifying residents. But only three people died in the town, a security official said.

"The trees and the buildings could not be saved, but the people have been evacuated, so the human toll was contained so far," said Naresh Sharma, a commander with the Indian Central Reserve Police Force.

For the people living along the coast, many of whom live as subsistence farmers in mud-and-thatch huts, the economic toll will be immense.

Heavy rains and surging seawater destroyed more than 500,000 hectares (1.23 million acres) of crops worth an estimated 24 billion rupees ($395 million), according to Orissa's disaster minister, S.N. Patro.

British Prime Minister David Cameron described the damage as "shocking," and said in a Twitter message that Britain would do "what it can to help."

U.S. forecasters had repeatedly warned that Phailin would be immense, and as the cyclone approached the Indian coast Saturday, satellite images showed its spinning tails covering an area larger than France.

With some of the world's warmest waters, the Indian Ocean is considered a cyclone hot spot, and 27 of the 35 deadliest storms in recorded history — including the 1999 cyclone — have come through the Bay of Bengal and landed in either India or Bangladesh.

  • Most Popular StoriesMost Popular StoriesMore>>

  • 2 bodies found in pickup truck near Washington highway

    2 bodies found in pickup truck near Washington highway

    Thursday, May 25 2017 8:04 PM EDT2017-05-26 00:04:42 GMT
    2 bodies found in pickup truck near Washington highway2 bodies found in pickup truck near Washington highway

    WENATCHEE, Wash. (AP) - The bodies of a man and woman have been found in a pickup truck near a Washington highway. KCPQ-TV reported Wednesday that the Chelan County Sheriff's Office says it appears someone had been trying to conceal the vehicle. The deputy who went to the call had said someone attempted to conceal the truck with a blanket, duct tape and natural vegetation from the area. The bodies had been in the driver's seat and front passe...

    >>

    WENATCHEE, Wash. (AP) - The bodies of a man and woman have been found in a pickup truck near a Washington highway. KCPQ-TV reported Wednesday that the Chelan County Sheriff's Office says it appears someone had been trying to conceal the vehicle. The deputy who went to the call had said someone attempted to conceal the truck with a blanket, duct tape and natural vegetation from the area. The bodies had been in the driver's seat and front passe...

    >>
  • Woman's warning after she says a stranger followed her home

    Woman's warning after she says a stranger followed her home

    Thursday, May 25 2017 9:04 PM EDT2017-05-26 01:04:30 GMT

    SPOKANE, Wash. - One Spokane woman wants to warn people to be careful when they’re out by themselves after she says she had a run-in with a strange man. “He made the hairs on my neck stand up. He gave me a weird feeling,” she says. She didn’t want to be identified because she’s still afraid. She was out walking her dog near 55th and Freya when a man suddenly appeared very close to her “I looked up and he was right there,” she 

    >>

    SPOKANE, Wash. - One Spokane woman wants to warn people to be careful when they’re out by themselves after she says she had a run-in with a strange man. “He made the hairs on my neck stand up. He gave me a weird feeling,” she says. She didn’t want to be identified because she’s still afraid. She was out walking her dog near 55th and Freya when a man suddenly appeared very close to her “I looked up and he was right there,” she 

    >>
  • Young inventor from Post Falls appears on 'The Ellen DeGeneres Show'

    Young inventor from Post Falls appears on 'The Ellen DeGeneres Show'

    Thursday, May 25 2017 9:16 PM EDT2017-05-26 01:16:56 GMT
    Courtesy Ellen TVCourtesy Ellen TV

    POST FALLS, Idaho - A young inventor by the name of Alex Knoll made his big debut on 'The Ellen DeGeneres Show" Thursday. 12-year-old Alex is from Post Falls, Idaho and is the creator of an award-winning app. He developed Ability App to help improve the lives of those with disabilities by giving them resources to make informed decisions. On the talk show, Alex shared with Ellen stories of his hero and background on the app. Alex is 

    >>

    POST FALLS, Idaho - A young inventor by the name of Alex Knoll made his big debut on 'The Ellen DeGeneres Show" Thursday. 12-year-old Alex is from Post Falls, Idaho and is the creator of an award-winning app. He developed Ability App to help improve the lives of those with disabilities by giving them resources to make informed decisions. On the talk show, Alex shared with Ellen stories of his hero and background on the app. Alex is 

    >>
HD DOPPLER 6i
/
  • Top Stories from KHQHomeMore>>

  • Mad Minute stories from Friday, May 26th

    Mad Minute stories from Friday, May 26th

    Friday, May 26 2017 5:02 PM EDT2017-05-26 21:02:47 GMT

    Here are the extended versions of the KHQ Local News 11 at 11 Mad Minute stories from Friday, May 26th.

    >>

    Here are the extended versions of the KHQ Local News 11 at 11 Mad Minute stories from Friday, May 26th.

    >>
  • Attention shoppers: woman's warning after drive-by purse snatching

    Attention shoppers: woman's warning after drive-by purse snatching

    Saturday, May 27 2017 1:34 AM EDT2017-05-27 05:34:50 GMT

    SPOKANE, Wash. - A Spokane woman says she was the latest victim in what seems to be a new trend for thieves: drive-by purse snatching.   Alice Galeotti says she left her purse in her shopping cart while she was loading up her car. She got distracted and that's when the thieves decided to strike. "It's very disheartening that you can't even shop in broad daylight and not have your entire life disrupted by thieves," said Galeotti. She was 

    >>

    SPOKANE, Wash. - A Spokane woman says she was the latest victim in what seems to be a new trend for thieves: drive-by purse snatching.   Alice Galeotti says she left her purse in her shopping cart while she was loading up her car. She got distracted and that's when the thieves decided to strike. "It's very disheartening that you can't even shop in broad daylight and not have your entire life disrupted by thieves," said Galeotti. She was 

    >>
  • $10,000 bill for getting car stuck in newly poured concrete

    $10,000 bill for getting car stuck in newly poured concrete

    Saturday, May 27 2017 1:02 AM EDT2017-05-27 05:02:32 GMT
    (Mike Palm, The City of Lincoln Public Works and Utilities Department via AP)(Mike Palm, The City of Lincoln Public Works and Utilities Department via AP)

    LINCOLN, Neb,. (AP) - A driver could be facing a $10,000 bill after he plowed into newly poured concrete in Lincoln, Nebraska, and became stuck.      The accident occurred Wednesday on a portion of a road repair project in the state capital. Police spokeswoman Angela Sands said Friday that police won't cite the driver, 19-year-old Shadrach Yasiah. A police incident report says it wasn't obvious that the concrete wasn't dry and that Yasiah 

    >>

    LINCOLN, Neb,. (AP) - A driver could be facing a $10,000 bill after he plowed into newly poured concrete in Lincoln, Nebraska, and became stuck.      The accident occurred Wednesday on a portion of a road repair project in the state capital. Police spokeswoman Angela Sands said Friday that police won't cite the driver, 19-year-old Shadrach Yasiah. A police incident report says it wasn't obvious that the concrete wasn't dry and that Yasiah 

    >>