Severe cyclonic storm Vardah pounded Chennai at an unprecedented 140kmph for a good 90 minutes on Monday afternoon until it crossed the city and travelled inland, bringing at least 10cm rainfall and claiming seven lives. The worst is over, said weathermen, forecasting light to moderate rainfall in Chennai, Tiruvallur, Kancheepuram and Villupuram districts in the next 24 hours.
By evening, the wind speed had reduced to 15-25kmph. At least seven people, including a 3-year-old child and four women died in separate rain-related incidents in the city. The deceased have been identified as Parvathi, 85, of Nungambakkam, Karna Behra, 24, of Elephant Gate, Karthik, 3, of Vadapalani, Vaikuntanathan, 42, of Kolathur, Mani, 60, of Thiru Vi Ka Nagar, Radha, 75, of Purasawalkam and Amanullah, 45, of Pallikaranai.
Weathermen had forecast that the very severe cyclonic storm Vardah would weaken before making landfall. Skymet Weather chief meteorologist Mahesh Palawat said, "Vardah did not weaken significantly as expected. The very severe cyclonic storm was still a severe cyclonic storm when it made landfall north of Chennai."
The cyclone which tore into the city brought down hundreds of trees. One half of most arterial roads were blocked with fallen trees, forcing two-way traffic to be diverted to the other half.
Several houses were destroyed, especially in coastal parts like Kottivakkam, Palavakkam, Foreshore Estate and Royapuram. Several incidents of wall collapse were reported across the city.
Most parts of the city suffered power cuts after electrical poles and cables were damaged. TNEB officials said that it would take at least a day is restore power in several areas. It damaged lampposts in several parts of the city. Mobile phone towers collapsed in several parts of the city including Besant Nagar, K K Nagar, Khader Nawaz Khan Road, Adambakkam and Marina.
Rainfall will subside by Tuesday night, forecast weathermen. With about 16cm rainfall since Sunday evening, the rainfall deficit has reduced from 80% to 75%. The city has received 20cm rainfall, against the normal of 80cm.
Weathermen said that another system might form over the southeast Bay of Bengal in a week or so. Palawat said, "A system could form around December 20. We will have to wait and watch if it can bring the water-starved city enough rainwater to last the summer ahead."