Tropical Cyclone “Mekunu” slammed into Oman around 20:00 UTC on Friday, May 25, 2018 as the first Category 3 hurricane equivalent to hit the region in recorded history. The storm dumped nearly three years’ worth of rain in landfall area and left at least 5 people dead and 30 missing.
Mekunu became an Extremely Severe Cyclonic Storm prior to landfall which occurred about 40 km (25 miles) WSW of Salalah, Oman’s third-largest city with a population of about 200 000.
At the time of landfall (midnight local time), Mekunu had maximum sustained winds of 185 km/h (115 mph), making it a Category 3 hurricane equivalent on the Safir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale – the first major cyclone in known history to hit the region (includes both Oman and Yemen).
Mekunu’s powerful winds knocked over street lights and tore away roofing while extremely heavy rain it dumped flooded streets and stranded drivers.
Before the landfall, Omani forecasters warned Salalah and its surrounding area would get at least 200 mm (7.9 inches), over twice the amount of rainfall they typically see in a year. However, Mekunu actually dumped 278.2 mm (11 inches), nearly three times its annual rainfall.
On the outskirts of the city, near the Salalah International Airport, what once was a dry creek bed had become a raging river, the AP reports.
The airport, closed since May 24, will reopen early Sunday, May 27, Oman’s Public Authority for Civil Aviation said. The Port of Salalah – a key gateway for the country and for Qatar amid a regional diplomatic dispute – remained closed, its cranes secured against the pounding rain and winds.
At least three people were killed in Oman, according to reports received by 16:00 UTC, May 26. An Asian laborer died in a flooded valley and an Omani national in a 4×4 died when his vehicle was swept away, Tarek al-Shanfari of the Royal Oman Police’s public relations department said. The third casualty is a 12-year-old girl who was hit in the head by a door flung open by the wind.
Oman Meteorology (PACA) said risk of flash flooding will remain high and warned of further heavy rain up to 400 mm (up 16 inches) in Dhofar and Al Wusta governorates over the next 36 hours. High waves and storm surge will continue to be a risk in Dhofar and al-Wusta coastal areas, with wave heights of 5 and 8 m (16 – 32 feet) expected.
Before it slammed into Oman, Mekunu’s center passed very close to Yemen’s Socotra Island, washing away thousands of animals and leaving at least 2 people dead and 30 missing.
Featured image credit: PACDA OMAN