Revisiting the 1999 Super Cyclone As It Completes 20 Years

29 October 2019


Bhubaneswar: The super cyclone, which caused widespread destruction, hit the State on October 29 1999 and is considered as the most intense recorded tropical cyclone in the North Indian Ocean.

It was first detected when it was at its low-pressure stage over the Gulf of Siam by the IMD cyclone surveillance system on the morning of October 24, five days before it made landfall. Its landfall was delayed by almost 30 hours. It hung near the coastline for almost 11 hours, causing the maximum damage.

Wind speed touched up to 260-300 kph and the speed remained the same for 36 hours.

The storm maintained this intensity as it made landfall between Ersama and Balikuda in Jagatsinghpur district on October 29. The cyclone steadily weakened and remained quasi-stationary for two days before slowly drifting offshore as a much weaker system. The storm dissipated on 4 November over the Bay of Bengal.

The 200 km-wide super cyclone ravaged all the coastal districts in general and Jagatsingpur, Kendrapara, Cuttack, Khurda and Puri in particular. It caused very high floods in Baitarini, Budhabalanga, and Salandi river basins, which severely affected and marooned districts of Jajpur, Bhadrak, Keonjhar, Balasore and Mayurbhanj.

The state capital Bhubaneswar and its twin city Cuttack were completely devastated. All surface communications, telecommunications, proper supply, and water supply were totally disrupted for more than 48 hours even in the state capital.

While the official death toll then was 9,885 people, unofficial sources estimated the toll to be above 50,000. Property worth Lakhs was destroyed. It left about 7,505 people injured and 3,15,886 cattle head lost.

This was probably the greatest cyclonic disaster ever recorded in the last century.

However, the 1999 super cyclone has helped the Odisha Government in better disaster preparedness and management. It has built 200 cyclone shelters. The government runs schools, anganwadis and community centres in them to ensure regular maintenance. The elite Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force regularly conducts mock drills to up its game, as the State is still a cyclone-prone area.