Historic tropical cyclone threatens Tanzania with major flooding

Hidaya is the strongest tropical cyclone ever recorded in the Tanzanian region

Deadly floods across eastern Africa may worsen this weekend after Cyclone Hidaya made landfall in Tanzania on Saturday.

The storm, a historic first for this stretch of coastal Africa, could produce 100-200+ mm of rain around the country’s densely populated capital region of Dar es Salaam.

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Cyclone Hidaya Satellite May 3 2024

Widespread flooding likely

Cyclone Hidaya is a small but powerful storm, packing winds equivalent to those of a Category 1 hurricane. The storm made landfall near the Tanzanian capital of Dar es Salaam in the early morning hours on Saturday.

Strong winds are a secondary threat to the tremendous amount of tropical rainfall that’ll push into the coast through this weekend.

Forecasters expect more than 200 mm of rain to fall around the Dar es Salaam region, which is home to more than 5 million people. Widespread flash flooding is likely across urban areas and along waterways throughout the region. Landslides and mudslides are possible in the hills west of the city.

Cyclone Hidaya Rain Forecast

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The potential for additional flooding is terrible news for this region of eastern Africa. Torrential rains have hammered portions of Kenya, Burundi, and Tanzania over the past couple of weeks. Reuters reported this week that more than 180 people in Kenya have died as a result of the floods.

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While the core of Hidaya’s moisture will remain in Tanzania, the same onshore flow steering the cyclone into land will fuel additional rounds of tropical downpours north into flood-stricken areas of Kenya.

A historic storm near Tanzania

The storm’s maximum winds reached nearly 150 km/h during the day Friday, making the tropical cyclone the equivalent of a strong Category 1 hurricane.

Forecasters with the Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC) confirmed on Friday that Hidaya is the strongest tropical cyclone ever observed in this part of the south Indian Ocean.

Cyclones Near Tanzania - May 3, 2024

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Most tropical cyclones in the south Indian Ocean form between 10°S and 30°S, with the island of Madagascar and the nation of Mozambique taking the brunt of storms as they track west across the ocean basin.

It’s rare for tropical cyclones to track this close to and landfall in Tanzania, given the country’s location just a few degrees south of the equator. Only four tropical cyclones on record have made landfall in Tanzania, and they all approached land with the equivalent strength of a weak tropical storm.

Header image courtesy of NASA.

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