Minimize Devastation in Mozambique

Tropical cyclones carry three major threats: winds, storm surge, and rainfall-triggered floods. All three landed devastating blows on Mozambique when Tropical Cyclone Idai came ashore on 15 March, 2019, after taking a sharp turn in the Mozambique Channel a few days earlier.

The storm raked coastal cities and towns in Central Mozambique with winds of 175 kilometers (110 miles) per hour—strong enough to topple trees and tear the roofs from homes. But as is usually the case with tropical cyclones, water proved to be the most destructive. Idai made landfall around the time of high tide, so the storm pushed a tremendous wall of water ashore - a surge of up to 6 meters (20 feet) in some areas. The water swamped a large tract of low-lying land along the Pungwe River. Meanwhile, as the large, slow-moving storm moved inland, it dumped extremely heavy rain on much of Mozambique's Manica and Sofala provinces.

The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA's Aqua satellite captured a false-colour image of the flooding on 21 March, 2019 - the first relatively clear NASA satellite view since Idai hit.

The storm surge and rains combined to turn the Pungwe Basin into an inland sea. Entire communities south of the Pungwe River appeared to be under water. Farther north, the Zambezi River remained swollen because Idai essentially hit the area twice; heavy rain fell earlier in March from the tropical disturbance that later became Idai. One estimate, based on Sentinel-1 data acquired on 19 March, indicated that water covered roughly 2,165 square kilometers (835 square miles) of eastern Africa, an area half the size of Rhode Island.

View the full resolution image.

Credit: NASA Earth Observatory images by Lauren Dauphin and Joshua Stevens, using MODIS data from NASA EOSDIS/LANCE and GIBS/Worldview, and iMERG data from the Global Precipitation Mission (GPM) at NASA/GSFC.

Mozambique - Tropical Cyclone Idai devastation


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