Enormous Cyclone Phailin is closing in on the east coast of India with winds of 155 mph, and it may strengthen before making landfall this weekend. Reuters reports that tens to hundreds of thousands of people are evacuating from coastal areas ahead of the potentially catastrophic storm. The massive storm is about half the size of India, and roughly the size and intensity of Hurricane Katrina when it was at its peak in the Gulf of Mexico.
Coastal India is both familiar with and vulnerable to strong cyclones. In 1999, a “super cyclone” moved inland with wind gusts up to 185 mph. 10,000 people along the east coast of India died in the storm. Phailin is expected to strengthen to the equivalent of a category five hurricane with winds over 160 mph before making landfall on Saturday. A storm surge of 10 feet is expected.