The level of alertness in Salalah is getting higher with the movement of the tropical cyclone Luban towards Dhofar. Current Met status suggests that the cyclone would have indirect impact on Salalah as its eye of storm is towards Yemen or the Gulf of Aden, which would have direct impact. The Met forecast suggested heavy rain in some parts of Dhofar.
Talking exclusively to the Observer, some senior officials of the Salalah office of the Public Authority of Civil Aviation (PACA) confirmed that the cyclone’s current status still was Category 1 with likely rainfall of 150-300mm and the surface wind speed between 64 and 74 knots ie 119 to 137km per hour. In another 48 hours the cyclone is likely to intensify into Category 2. Ahmed Salim Ghawas, Forecaster at PACA said among many factors the speed of the cyclone decides its category. “Due to the current speed limit of 74 knots, the Luban’s status is Category 1… cyclones having speed of 83 to 95 knots come under Category 2 and beyond that is Category 3.”
Ahmed Said Saad, Head of Met Operations at PACA Salalah, and Mohammed Salim al Hamar, Supervisor Forecaster, joined the briefing and stated that the maximum impact of the cyclone in Salalah could be felt on Saturday and Sunday due to its very slow movement. As of now it is some 400km away from Salalah.
Being their closeness to the centre of storm the western parts of Dhofar like Dhalkout and Rakhyout would get more rains during the cyclone. Explaining the difference between fast moving and slow moving cyclones, Al Ghawas said, “The cyclones which move fast are dangerous due to their speed and the extents of damage caused by them are big and quick. The slow moving cyclones, however, have more rains sometimes because they move very slow and cause rain continuously during their stay.”
The Salalah weather station, according to Al Ghawas, is a well-equipped set up with weather radars and other best possible technologies.
“The weather radar gives real time data on rainfall, wind speed and its direction at sea level. It gives real time pictures of the cyclone, which is very useful in making forecasts. They also help in data sharing with new weather assessment products and giving near accurate forecast,” he said.
Meanwhile, the officials of the municipality, civil defence, Royal Oman Police, Public Authority for Consumer Protection did another round of meeting to assess the emergency readiness and ensure least possible damage to life and property. They also discussed about the availability of certain services even during the cyclone.
Port of Salalah, which already had issued notices to non-essential personnel and vessels to vacate the port, closed all the operations today and decided to close the port tonight till further notice.
“The decision has been taken in the interest of the property, employees and the port customers. We, however, are keeping constant eye on the situation and the best possible steps are being taken to minimise damage during the cyclone,” Mohammed Aufait al Mashani, General Manager Corporate Affairs of Port of Salalah said.
The Directorate General of Health Services in Dhofar has decided to shift patients from Sultan Qaboos Hospital to Salalah Heart Centre and Armed Forces Hospital.
A source in Salalah Sanitary Drainage Services Company (SSDC) said that its officials were doing advance planning for the last one week to ensure proper outflow of water caused by the cyclone.
Tarpaulin, plastic sheets, candles and emergency lights are high in demand. A ground duty manager at Lulu Hypermarket admitted that all sorts of non-perishable items like rice, beaten rice, pulses, and all kinds of breads, biscuits, cakes and sugar are top on every buyer’s list.
“Learnt from cyclone Mekunu, we are not taking any chances this time. We have packed our windows and doors properly this time and have decided to store enough grocery to avoid going out during the cyclone, which is also weekend for us,” said a housewife and resident of Saada.