A satellite image from Friday morning, Oct. 11, shows Cyclone Phailin spinning just off the Indian east coast.
(USA TODAY) -- A monstrous and potentially catastrophic cyclone is taking aim on
India, with sustained winds estimated at about 161 mph as of Friday,
according to the Joint Typhoon Warning Center. This is equivalent to a
Category 5 hurricane.
Gusts are as high as 195 mph. It's close to being the strongest storm ever recorded in the Indian Ocean.
The storm (named Phailin) is so large it fills nearly the entire Bay of Bengal, which is part of the Indian Ocean.
ordered at least 40,000 coastal villagers to flee their homes Friday,
and authorities plan to take another 100,000 people to safer areas
before the cyclone hits.
The "effects to the Indian coast ... in
terms of surge will be catastrophic, with the potential to erase most
houses, crops and infrastructure," reported WeatherBell meteorologist
Ryan Maue on his Twitter account.
Phailin is likely to be the
strongest tropical cyclone to affect India in 14 years, when a fierce
cyclone hit the east coast of India, killing almost 10,000 people,
according to meteorologist Jeff Masters of the Weather Underground.
weather models meteorologists use to forecast storms are in tight
agreement that Phailin will track northwest into the northeast coast of
India, with landfall expected to occur Saturday, Masters said.
storm should hit in India's Orissa state, reported the typhoon warning
center. The state has a population of close to 40 million people, the
Odisha government website noted, and has about 700 people per square
Cyclones form in the Indian Ocean, and are the same type of storm as a
hurricane in the Atlantic Ocean and a typhoon in the western Pacific.
They are all known by the umbrella term "tropical cyclones."
that form in the Bay of Bengal can be among the deadliest natural
catastrophes in the world. Twenty-six of the thirty-five deadliest
tropical cyclones in world history have been Bay of Bengal storms,
according to Masters.
In fact, during the past two centuries, 42%
of Earth's deaths from tropical cyclones have occurred in Bangladesh,
and 27% have occurred in India, Masters reports.
A single cyclone that hit Bangeldesh in 1970 killed between 300,000 and 500,000 people.
"Phailin" means "sapphire" in the Thai language.