A Cyclone Leads To An Avalanche

Oct 19, 2014 By Deepa Gopal
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Typhoons, Cyclones, Hurricanes. All three of these words describe the same - furious tropical storms that impact the coastal regions of our world.

When the winds in a storm reach at least 74 miles an hour, it is called a “hurricane” in the Americas, a “cyclone” near the Indian peninsula, and a “typhoon” in the eastern Pacific.

One such cyclone - named HudHud, battered the eastern coast of India recently. It brought heavy rains, flooded coastal regions and damaged buildings. But the storm had another unexpected impact - more than a thousand miles away in the Himalayan mountain range. Hikers in the Annapurna region of the Himalayas were caught in a huge blizzard (snowstorm). At least 31 climbers have died in what is believed to be the deadliest disaster in the region.

How A Cyclone Became A Blizzard?

India has a very unique geography. The southern half of the country is a peninsula jutting into the Indian Ocean - the water on the east is enclosed by land on three sides to form a Bay. Known as the Bay of Bengal, this region is prone to devastating tropical storms. In fact, eight of the the ten deadliest cyclones in Asia have been in the Bay of Bengal.

Once the storm hit the Indian coast and traveled inland, it met the mighty wall of the Himalayas. In a matter of hours, six feet of snow fell in some regions, triggering an avalanche. October is usually a dry month and a favorable time for trekkers - so many inexperienced climbers were caught off guard. In addition to trekkers, many yak herders and locals are listed as missing. 

The Annapurna Range

The Annapurna mountain in Nepal is the 10th highest peak in the world. Annapurna is a Sanskrit name for ‘Goddess of the Harvests’ or more simply ‘The Provider’. One of Annapurna I’s claim to fame is that it was the first 8,000m (26,200 ft) peak to be climbed.

For those who are not avid mountaineers trying to summit Mt. Everest, Annapurna offers the perfect Himalayan trekking experience. The Annapurna Circuit is a 300km trek around the mountain range, and offers breathtaking scenery, ice pyramids and a glimpse of the fabled Tibetan plateau. The trek follows ancient paths used as trade routes between Nepal and Tibet. 

If there is lesson from the recent disaster, it is that weather information needs to be made available to all companies operating trekking services in the region. Also, any disaster relief efforts needs to be better coordinated among the many agencies.