Tropical Cyclone Fantala Triggers Heavy Rainfall and Flooding in Coastal Kenya

Tropical cyclone Fantala, the strongest on record in the Indian ocean, triggered spiralling winds that caused an insurgence of moist air from the Indian ocean to the adjacent coastlines of Kenya and eastern Tanzania.

Prolonged heavy rainfall occurred as a result, lasting days from Wednesday, 13 April to 18 April 2016. This near week-long rainfall event saturated soil that had been dry since the start of the year. As a result, several areas of coastal Kenya have suffered severe flooding.

At least 131mm of rainfall was recorded in Kwale on Friday, 15 April in 4 hours. Several villages were cut off from the rest of the country due to flooding after the River Umba, which flows from Tanzania, burst its banks.

According to Kenya Red Cross Regional Manager of Kwale County, many families suffered in the floods which caused widespread damage to property. Kenya Red Cross say several houses have been completely destroyed. The worst affected villages include Kiwegu, Bondeni, Mwarongo, Yogon and Matoroni. Many people have been displaced by the floods, although the exact figure is as yet unknown.

Several farms have been reported as flooded, with crops suffering damage or completely destroyed. The Kenya Red Cross estimates that at least 25,000 acres of land have been flooded.

In Mombasa city, roads were rendered impassable after heavy rains, and operations of Mombasa Port have been disrupted, according to Kenya Ports Authority (KPA).

Warnings and Forecasts

Several weather forecast centres had predicted that the tropical cyclone Fantala would lead to intensified rainfall which would have devastating impacts.

Cumultive rainfall forecast for between 14 to 23 April 2016 . Image: ICPAC
Cumulative rainfall forecast for between 14 to 23 April 2016 . Image: ICPAC

A ten-day weather forecast by ICPAC showed a spiralling wind pattern at the Coast of Kenya, Tanzania and Somalia. These winds would lead to injection of most air to the land mass leading to heavy rainfall. The impact of this was likely to extend to Southern and Central Ethiopia. Presently, cyclone Fantala has receded farther from the coast and has led to occurrence of offshore winds that continue to deplete moisture from the coastal region and hence reduce the rainfall intensity.

Wind flow forecast for 14 to 23 April. Image: ICPAC
Wind flow forecast for 14 to 23 April. Image: ICPAC

Should the cyclone’s trajectory change and it heads back to the coastline as had been forecast, its effects will soon be felt once more. The threat of further rainfall from cyclone Fantala comes just at a time when typical the seasonal rainfall for the coast is intensifies, leading to a number of floods that characterize coastal Kenya during March-April-May rainfall.