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Weekly Weather Event -Week of May 18

May 22, 2020

On May 20th, Cyclone Amphan made landfall in the Bay of Bengal, impacting large swaths of India and Bangladesh’s coastline. Maximum sustained winds were approximately at 98 miles per hour (157 kilometers per hour), on par with a Category 2 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. Just a day prior, Cyclone Amphan was considerably stronger, with maximum sustained winds surpassing 130 mph (209kph). This earned the storm a classification of a super cyclone and put it on par with a Category 4 hurricane designation, the strongest cyclone the Bay of Bengal has seen in over two decades.

Initial reports place estimates of 80 dead, though the number is likely higher. Evacuation efforts were hampered by the coronavirus pandemic, as certain cyclone shelters had been converted into overflow treatment centers. Further complicating measures, people were reluctant to evacuate, fearing infection over the cyclone. This parallels similar problems faced by the Philippines during Typhoon Vongfong, the first named 2020 storm in the Pacific, where officials had to deal with the brunt of a tropical cyclone alongside a pandemic.

The terminology for a tropical cyclone is entirely based on location. Tropical depressions and tropical storms are universal terms around the world, both describing the weakest tropical cyclones and cyclones with sustained winds of 39 miles per hour or greater respectively. Once a storm has sustained winds of 74 miles per hour or higher, the location of the storm determines whether it will be reclassified to a hurricane, typhoon, or tropical cyclone. A storm in the North Atlantic, central North Pacific, and eastern North Pacific is classified as a hurricane. The same storm in the Northwest Pacific is instead a typhoon. In the South Pacific and Indian Ocean, the term tropical cyclone is used to describe storms of all wind strengths.