Tropical Cyclone Mekunu approaches Dhofar Oman

Cyclone Mekunu approaches Dhofar Oman and has formed to the south of the southern Oman coast of Dhofar. This Cyclone is relatively weak, with the ‘eye’ disintegrating and forward speed of less than 10kmph. However, the ocean surface temperature remains at over 31c and this will certainly provide an increase in the energy of the Cyclone as it approaches the coast.

Cyclone Mekenu 23 May MODIS NASA
Cyclone Mekenu 23 May MODIS NASA

Circulatory windspeeds of around 65kmph combined with the barrier formed by the high coastal mountains which are at least 1,000m above the sea,  will mean that rainfall on the sea-facing mountains will be intense. Landfall is likely to be in Dalkut region west of Salalah, an area of extremely high sea cliffs, up to 1000m above the sea, and inland little vegetation or soil cover to hold water flow back. Though rains will arrive on Thursday morning and continue until Saturday or Sunday, the eye of the cyclone will cross the land late on Friday. There are steep valleys, locally called wadis, which will act as a funnel for the intense rain which suggests that the mouth of wadis in the west of Dhofar such as Wadi Seeq at Khawr Kharfout and Wadi Ashok at Khawr Mughsayl will have an intense outflow of water as will most coastal locations through past Sadah to Hasik in the far east of the mountain range of Dhofar.

Dalkut Mountains Dhofar
Dalkut Mountains Dhofar

Waterfalls are likely to form, such as Wadi Darbat’s and an early growth of summer vegetation will take place along most sea facing slopes of the Dhofar mountain range.

Sea Cliffs Dhofar
Sea Cliffs Dhofar

Omani modern buildings are constructed to a high standard with, in all cases, substantial concrete platforms and steel re-bars for columns and flooring/ceilings, so little structural damage is likely, unless the ground suffers massive erosion.  Roads are more susceptible to erosion, especially on mountain slopes, though most major roads are ‘all weather’.
The Oman Government has evacuated the residents on an isolated island, Hallaniyyat, that appears to be on the far eastern edge of the cyclone.

Information 23rd May for Dhofar
Emergency – Police, Fire & Ambulance – 9999
Emergency Ministry of Health – 24441999
Emergency – Electricity – 154 / 23219188
Emergency – Water – 1445 / 23290052

If you are visiting Oman these books, including my revision of the Bradt Guide to Oman, are available on Amazon.

Bus Services on the following routes will impacted;

Muscat-Salalah, Muscat-Marmul, Muscat-Duqm, Salalah-Marmul, Salalah-Mazuaynah – Yemen, Duqm-Hayma.

Bus Services contact Mwasalat Salalah 23292773, Gulf Transport Salalah 23293303

Flights will be impacted for a few days between Muscat – Salalah and to East Africa – Dar Al Salaam, Nairobi & Zanzibar

Contact Oman Air (24hour) 24531111

Wadi Darbat Waterfalls
Wadi Darbat Waterfalls – scale see cars

Cyclones, though relatively uncommon in Oman, have been increasing in frequency since 2000.

In May 2002, a cyclone made ‘landfall’ in Salalah on May 10th creating intense rainfall and resulting in the death of several people.

The most powerful Cyclone ever to affect Oman was probably Gonu, which ran parallel to the north Oman coast from June 4th 2007. Circulatory wind speed reached 270kmph before the cyclone reached Oman and the extreme rainfall of just over 60cm had considerable impact in the country, including a reported 50 deaths.

Overturned trucks Cyclone Gonu Oman
Overturned trucks Cyclone Gonu Oman

Phet was a major Cyclone to impact northern Oman from 2nd June 2010. It dropped 60cms of rain, had peak winds of 155kmph, and resulted in the death of 16 people.

In 2011 Cyclone Keila came ashore in Salalah on November 3, creating over 70cms of rainfall and again resulting in deaths, reportedly 14 people.

On 7th June 2015 Cyclonic Storm Ashobaa approached northern Oman, with winds on 85kmph. Its main impact was on Masirah Island. A 3rd November 2015 a Cyclone skirted Oman and impacted Yemen, especially Socotra and the Hadramawt. Following this Cyclone a remarkable second Cyclone impacted Socotra on 9th November 2015. Both of these Cyclones created heavy rain in Dhofar. This means that in 2015 there were 3 cyclones that impacted Oman.

Cyclones are the Indian Ocean (and scientific) name for hurricanes and require high ocean surface water temperatures of 27c+, along with a wind. The effect of a column of rising warm, moist air, with cooler air and rain falling on the outer edge of the updraft creates a circulation which magnifies the uplift. Eventually with favourable conditions spin is created, and the low-pressure along with Coriolis force creates, over the Indian Ocean, an anti-clockwise wind direction.

The Arabian Sea area has two Cyclone seasons; as the additional impact of the summer monsoon cools the ocean water temperature down. Therefore sometime around the end of May and start of June, which is when the monsoon picks up intensity and the sea water becomes cooler, therefore Cyclones cannot form. Following the reduction of the summer monsoon, the seas become calmer and the wind reversal (to come from the north) in winter has less impact. This means that the ocean surface can again warm, providing energy to Cyclones, before the reduced angle of the sun is such that solar heat has less impact on the water’s temperature from the start of November.

Author: Tony Walsh

Book author including the current Bradt guide to Oman – edition 4