Ruto Issues Warning On Cyclone Hidaya Bound For Kenya: What We Know

A Cabinet despatch sent to newsrooms on Thursday, May 2 indicated that Cyclone Hidaya may bring with it heavy rainfall, large waves and strong winds that could affect marine activities in the Indian Ocean.

Ruto Issues Warning On Cyclone Hidaya Bound For Kenya: What We Know
Satellite imagery of Cyclone Hidaya on its way to Tanzania and President William Ruto (inset). /ZOOM EARTH.PCS

President William Ruto has publicly confirmed that Kenya is on the verge of being hit by a cyclone for the very first time, one that has since been christened Hidaya.

Speaking on Friday, May 3 during his Nation Address at State House, President Ruto revealed that the storm could hit the country at any time from now, revealing the effects of the cyclone making landfall.

“The Kenya Meteorological Department and the IGAD Climate Prediction Applications Centre, have issued a stark warning, Kenya may face its first-ever cyclone.

“This Cyclone, named Hidaya, that could hit anytime now is predicted to cause torrential rain, strong winds and powerful and dangerous waves, which could potentially disrupt marine activities in the Indian Ocean and settlements along the Kenyan coast,” he announced.

Live tracking of Cyclone Hidaya as of May 3, 2024. /ZOOM EARTH

A Cabinet despatch sent to newsrooms on Thursday, May 2 indicated that Cyclone Hidaya may bring with it heavy rainfall, large waves and strong winds that could affect marine activities in the Indian Ocean.

What Is A Cyclone?

A cyclone is a large air mass that rotates around a strong centre of low atmospheric pressure. Their winds spiral inward and rotate counterclockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere [of Cyclone rotation in Northern and Southern Hemisphere].

They are characterized by inward-spiralling winds that rotate about a zone of low pressure.

Cyclones can be categorized into two main types:

  1. Tropical cyclones are intense circular storms that form over warm tropical oceans. They are also called hurricanes (in the Atlantic and Eastern North Pacific Oceans) or typhoons (in the Western North Pacific and South Pacific Oceans). Tropical cyclones are fueled by the warm water of the ocean and can cause devastating winds, heavy rain, and storm surges.
  2. Extratropical cyclones are large-scale weather systems that form over the oceans in middle and high latitudes. They are less intense than tropical cyclones, but they can still produce strong winds, heavy rain, and snow.

About Cyclone Hidaya

Tropical Cyclone Hidaya is said to have developed over the South Indian Ocean, east of Tanzania and north-northeast of Comoros, on Wednesday.

It was designated the name ‘Hidaya’ by the Meteo France La Reunion, with forecast models tracking it west-northwestward between May 2-4, 2024.

This is as the Tanzania Meteorological Authority (TMA) predicted that Cyclone Hidaya would be also approaching the country’s Coast between Thursday and Monday.

According to Crisis24, the tropical storm will become moderate while passing north of Tanzania’s Mafia Island, before taking a “turn to track north-northwestward as it approaches the eastern Tanzania coast late May 4 and will likely dissipate into a zone of disturbed weather as it passes between Unguja Island and the mainland May 5.”

The TMA has since issued an advisory to residents of Coastal areas likely to be affected by the cyclone, noting that there will be heavy rains and strong winds.

"The presence of ‘Hidaya' near our country's coast is expected to dominate and affect the weather systems of the country, including causing periods of heavy rain and strong winds in some regions of the Mtwara, Lindi, and Pwani (including the Mafia Islands),” the TMA said in a statement.

“Dar es Salaam, Tanga, Morogoro, Ugunja, and Pemba regions and neighbouring areas, especially on May 3, 2024, for the southern coastal areas (Lindi and Mtwara) and spreading to other coastal areas from May 4 to 6, 2024.”

Satellite tracking provided by Zoom Earth indicates that Cyclone Hidaya is anticipated to reach land between Saturday and Sunday, with wind speeds forecast to reach up to 167 km/h upon impact. Additionally, a storm surge of 7.9 meters (2.3 feet) is predicted, posing a significant risk to coastal communities.

Will Cyclone Hidaya Actually Hit Kenya?

Despite the cyclone's trajectory suggesting that Tanzania could bear the brunt of its force, there are concerns that the tropical storm could hit some parts of Kenya, particularly the southeast region.

An analysis of the cyclone's trajectory indicates that regions closest to the Kenya-Tanzania border, particularly the counties of Kwale, Taita Taveta, and Kajiado, are most vulnerable.

Among the towns expected to be affected are Wundanyi, Msambweni, and Shimoni, along with Lunga Lunga, Ukunda, Mwatate, and Duruma. Additionally, Taveta, Mariakani, Livundani, Marongo, Vanga, Maungu, and Rusanga are some of the locations likely to experience the cyclone's effects.

The threat extends beyond human settlements to encompass vital wildlife habitats, including Tsavo West National Park, Diani Beach, Shimba Hills National Park, Lamu Wildlife Sanctuary, and Chyulu Hills National Park. These conservation areas face the risk of significant disruption and damage, posing challenges to the preservation of biodiversity in the region.

A cyclone building up over an ocean. /STORM SCIENCE AUSTRALIA

While some areas, such as Mombasa and Voi, lie just outside the predicted path of Cyclone Hidaya, they are not exempt from its impact.

Residents in these regions can anticipate heavy rains and strong winds as the cyclone's influence extends beyond its immediate trajectory, and the storm could add a layer of pain to Kenyans already having to deal with the ongoing heavy rainfall and flooding across the country.