One of the last tragic extreme weather events of 2011 was Cyclone Thane hitting the Tamil Nadu coast of India. It caused 46 deaths and damaged buildings, roads and crops. It was the strongest tropical cyclone of 2011 within the North Indian Ocean.
From the Bay of Bengal it made landfall as a very severe cyclone on Friday 30 December very close to Puducherry. The storm struck with torrential rains and gale force winds from 125 to 140 kilometres per hour which uprooted hundreds of trees and knocked down electric poles and mobile phone towers producing power outages and communications blackouts in several areas.
A recent study linked increasing air pollution over the Indian sub-continent to an increase in the intensity of tropical cyclones in the region. In a warming climate tropical cyclones are forecast by most climate models to increase in intensity while cyclone frequency will stay the same or decrease slightly.
There was an associated storm surge of 1.5 metres which flooded low lying coastal areas causing extensive damage to standing paddy crops in hundreds of acres in the coastal districts of Cuddalore, Villupuram, Nagapattinam and Thanjavur. There was also extensive damage to small fishing boats. Some people who refused to go to relief centres and stayed in low lying villages found themselves marooned.
Despite storm warnings in effect with twenty thousand people using relief shelters, there are reports of 46 deaths. The worst hit area was Cuddalore, south of Chennai with 39 deaths with a further 7 deaths in Puducherry. Some of the deaths were from collapsing walls and electrocution.
Roads in the region have been closed by uprooted trees and train services have been disrupted. The Tamil Nadu government declared a holiday for educational institutions in 11 districts.
Chief Minister for Puducherry N Rangasamy said the cyclone is the severest in recent history of Puducherry.
There are two nuclear plants producing power on the Kalpakkam coast, and while both used operating procedures for cyclone emergency conditions, neither stopped operating and were reported to be safe and undamaged.