Cyclone: a familiar term in the eastern part of the country, but for a reporter in Mumbai, an unknown. We Mumbai reporters are used to covering heavy rains, constant rains, rains that flood entire cities. Rain packed in strong winds is a completely different phenomenon.
When I was asked to report from Alibaug, a popular tourist about 100 km from Mumbai, I had mixed emotions. The organization trusted me enough to send me to the very site of Cyclone Nisarga landing. Ground zero, so to speak.
The NDTV team, my cameraman, our driver and I arrived at the Alibaug beach around 5:30 a.m. on Wednesday and found everything … quiet. No wind, no unusual waves, not a single moving leaf.
Maybe this is what they call calm before the storm.
Finally it was dawn and our work began.
High tide was around 10 a.m., about three hours before the expected landing. A drizzle, then the waves began to crash against the shore, each higher than the last. The wind rose. My cameraman Pravin, who had covered a cyclone before, assumed that the speed was around 20-25 kmph, not that powerful. Still.
Suddenly, a horse came running from the other end of the shore. He was blocked, suggesting he was not a stray. A pack of 7-8 dogs followed. Animals perceive changes in nature and I saw it myself. Soon, the birds began to sing wildly, as if to warn us.
The wind turned into gusts and it started to rain. The face mask she was wearing as a precaution against coronavirus (she couldn’t forget the precautions for the pandemic) was soaked.
The wind began to roar in our ears. Our cellular network became increasingly irregular and the live unit began to break down.
The cyclone would hit the coast between 12.30pm and 1pm, the Indian Meteorological Department reported.
As we got closer to the hour, it became difficult to stay rooted to the place. The wind was now at 100 km / h, pushing me in all directions like a rag doll. Gravity and other laws of physics suddenly became more real than just the textbook terms.
The trees around the beach, mostly coconut trees, began to sway violently in the wind, now howling. Some loose branches began to fall off. The path to the beach was soon filled with water and fallen leaves. Coconuts and mangoes were scattered everywhere. Alibaug Beach had taken on the color of Eastman.
As we drove to our car, I felt blown out to sea by the winds. It took all my strength to walk ahead. As we drove through the picturesque town, we saw giant uprooted trees blocking the roads.
A tin roof was ripped from a building and came flying towards us, but it was hit by a utility pole.
The storm lasted three hours. Our SUV shook and the wind hit our glass windows.
After what seemed like hours, the rain stopped and the wind stopped.
Alibaug was placid again.
But the storm left its mark. The electrical cables broke, causing a power outage. The communication towers had to be restored. Near the shore, roofs had been blown off or trees had smashed into them.
A great blessing was that due to the low tide, Alibaug was saved from the floods.
We return to Mumbai in the late afternoon.
Now it was an old cyclone, rare for a Mumbaikar.