Cyclone Tej is ravaging Yemen and could drop 20 inches of rain on the desert nation overnight—10 times the area’s annual average rainfall.
The cyclone made landfall Tuesday morning and has already reportedly dropped 15 inches of rain at the Al-Ghaydah airport in Yemen’s Al-Mahra province. The storm has lost some of its strength as it moves inland, but rain continues to fall across much of Yemen’s coast.
Storm chaser Colin McCarthy posted on X, formerly Twitter, that 20 to 30 inches of rain were forecasted for Al Ghaydah in only 24 hours.
“Some forecast models predict that 20-30 inches of rain could fall in the next 24 hours near Al Ghaydah, Yemen, as Tropical Cyclone Tej stalls over the region. Al Ghaydah receives ~2 inches of rain per year, which means over 10 year’s worth of rain could fall in just 24 hours, leading to catastrophic flooding,” McCarthy wrote on Monday.
It is uncommon for severe cyclones to form over the Arabian Sea, which is on India’s western coast, the scientific journal Nature reported in 2021. The storms are more likely to form in the warmer ocean waters in the Bay of Bengal on India’s eastern coast, where Cyclone Hamoon currently rages, but the number of severe cyclones forming in the Arabian Sea has been increasing steadily since 1995.
Increased surface temperatures of the Arabian Sea caused by climate change could spark more severe cyclones, according to the study.
AccuWeather senior meteorologist Jason Nicholls said cyclones forming in the Arabian Sea are not unheard of, but it is unusual for a storm to track near Yemen.
“They seem to get a landfall every five years or so,” Nicholls told Newsweek, adding that the most recent cyclone landfall near Yemen was in 2018. “What’s helping it this year is more of the warm water, and conditions are right for development on the Arabian Sea side this year.”
Nicholls said that precipitation estimates could be inaccurate, as the dry Yemen weather can cause the storms to “rapidly dissipate.”
Videos and images of the flooding have been shared on social media. Weather Channel senior meteorologist Jonathan Erdman shared an image on X that revealed the flooding severity.
“As feared, staggering rainfall totals have come out of eastern Yemen and western Oman from Cyclone #Tej. Per Yemen Met Services, 406 mm (15.98 inches) of rain has fallen at Al-Ghaydah Airport as of 9am Tuesday, ~8 times *annual* average, there,” Erdman posted, citing Yemen Meteorological Services.
The slow-moving system was expected to stall over Yemen, contributing to the rainfall totals. Cyclones are ranked on a scale of five levels, ranging from a Cyclonic Storm with wind speeds of 63 to 88 kilometers per hour (39 to 54 miles per hour) to a Super Cyclonic Storm with wind speeds greater than 221 km/h (137 mph).
Prior to landfall, Cyclone Tej was ranked as an Extremely Severe Cyclonic Storm, and its windspeeds increased upon its approach to 125 mph. While nearing Yemen, windspeeds died down to 80 mph just before landfall and are now measured at 40 mph as the storm works its way inland.
A typhoon is classified as a severe tropical cyclone occurring in the Northwest Pacific. A hurricane is the term for the same type of storm in the Northeast Pacific and Northern Atlantic. Outside of these regions, the storms are called tropical cyclones.