Just days after Typhoon Haiyan devastated the Philippines, Somalia also suffered a rare and deadly tropical cyclone. Tropical Cyclone Three (03A) formed in the Arabian Sea on November 8, 2013 in a favorable environment of warm water temperatures and low wind shear. It slowly moved westward to make landfall in northeastern Somalia on November 11.
The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASA’s Aqua satellite captured this true-color image of newly-born Tropical Cyclone Three on November 8. The center of the storm is cloud filled, and surrounded by a concentrated area of thunderstorms. The storm has a loose apostrophe shape, with a few thin rain bands stretching over the tan, semi-arid lands of Somalia.
Tropical Cyclone Three was never a strong storm, especially compared to the 195 mph (313 km/h) Super Typhoon Haiyan that was pounding the Philippines the same day. On November 8, the one-minute maximum sustained winds of Three reached only 40 mph (64 km/h). Three days later, when the storm landed in Somalia’s Puntland, the maximum winds were only 45 mph (72 km/h) with gusts reported up to 60 mph (100 km/h).
It was not the wind that was so devastating, it was the rain. Tropical Cyclone Three dropped 100-200 mm (4-8 in) of rain over the region, with some areas in Puntland reporting 350 mm (11 in). Puntland, located at the northeast tip of the country, has an annual rainfall of up to 200 mm (8 in), with some localities reporting only 100 mm (4 in) per year. The rain caused widespread flash flooding, which destroyed hundreds of houses and washed thousands of livestock out to sea. Reports estimate 100,000 livestock perished in the flooding. At least 143 people were confirmed dead, although estimates have risen to 300. Extreme cold has been reported to have followed the storm, putting additional pressure on people who have lost both their homes and their primary food source.
The warm waters of the Arabian Sea are typically not favorable for cyclone formation, but they do occur. One to two cyclones form over those waters each year, usually in November and these rarely make landfall. The last cyclone to affect Somalia was in December of 2012.