Tropical Cyclone Phailin Barrels Toward India
The projected path of Tropical Cyclone Phailin towards India as of 11:30 a.m. ET on Oct. 10, 2013.
Credit: JTWC

A potentially very dangerous tropical cyclone is churning its way toward northeastern India across the Bay of Bengal.

Tropical Cyclone Phailin is currently at a strength just equivalent to a Category 3 hurricane with sustained winds of about 115 mph (185 km/h), according to the Joint Typhoon Warning Center. Eric Holthaus, lead meteorologist for the news site Quartz, has said on Twitter that satellite estimates of the storm suggest it rapidly intensified, and could possibly actually be the equivalent of a Category 4 storm, with 140 mph (220 km/h) winds. Tropical cyclones and hurricanes are the same phenomenon (as are typhoons), but are called different names in different basins.

If the storm maintains this strength or intensifies further, it could wreak havoc on India's northeastern states with rough seas, storm surge and extreme rainfall. A 1999 super cyclone equivalent in strength to a Category 5 hurricane followed a similar path as Phailin is predicted to travel. That storm caused thousands of deaths, billions of dollars in damage and left more than a million homeless. It was the second cyclone to hit the area in as many weeks, the previous having been equivalent to a Category 4 storm.