Historical Perspective

In 1864, two severe cyclonic storms in quick succession hit the east coast of India, causing enormous loss of human lives and property – the first one struck Kolkata in October and the second one struck Machilipatnam in November. Concerned with these disasters, the Government appointed a committee in 1865 to formulate a scheme to develop a system of cyclone warnings. On the recommendations of the committee, Kolkata became the first port where a storm warning system was organised in 1865. Thus the issue of storm warning messages started even before the establishment of the Department in 1875. The storm warning scheme for west coast ports (Mumbai, Karachi, Ratnagiri, Vengurla, Karwar and Kumta) came into force in 1880. In 1882, besides Kolkata, the ports at Sagar Islands, Mud Port and Diamond Harbour were also included in the list of ports getting storm warning messages. By 1886, the system of early warnings against cyclones was extended to cover all Indian ports.

Upto 1898, two different systems of storm warning signals (one for the east coast ports and another for west coast ports) were in use. As this was leading to some confusion, a uniform system of storm warning signals was introduced at all the Indian ports from 1898. Kolkata office was responsible for issuing storm warning to all the ports (including those of Burma) around the Bay of Bengal, while the west coast ports were served by the Bombay Meteorological Reporter initially and later from Shimla which was then the headquarters of the Department. After the shift of the HQ of the Department from Shimla to Pune in 1928, the storm warning work for west coast was done from Pune. From 1928 till 1945, the storm warning work was managed between the Kolkata and Pune offices for Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea respectively.

Formation of Regional Centres

With the formation of Regional Meteorological Centres soon after the World War II, the storm warning work for the Bay ports on the east coast from Kalingapatnam southwards was transferred to Chennai (Meenambakkam) in 1945. Similarly, the responsibility for the Arabian Sea ports was taken over by the Meteorological Office at Santacruz (Mumbai) in 1947. As the combination of the meteorological activities for aviation and marine interests in the same office had some drawbacks, these two activities were bifurcated to achieve a more efficient functioning of the storm warning service. Separate storm warning centres came to be established at Colaba (Mumbai) in 1956 and at Nungambakkam (Chennai) in 1969. The responsibility for the ports on the west coast from Karwar southwards was also transferred from Mumbai to Chennai in 1969.

Formation of CWCs

In 1969, the Government of India appointed a committee called the Cyclone Distress Mitigation committee (CDMC) for Andhra Pradesh to examine various measures to mitigate human suffering and reduce loss of life and property due to cyclonic storms. Subsequently similar committees were set up for Orissa and West Bengal. The Cyclone Distress Mitigation committees for Andhra Pradesh and Orissa recommended in 1971-72 that the India Meteorological Department should establish storm warning centres at Visakhapatnam and Bhubaneshwar for issuing cyclone warnings to coastal Andhra Pradesh and coastal Orissa respectively. Consequently, a storm warning centre was set up at Visakhapatnam in 1974, and at Bhubaneshwar in 1973 for catering to the needs of Andhra Pradesh and Orissa respectively. In pursuance of the recommendation of Cyclone Review Committee, another Storm Warning Centre was established at Ahmedabad in 1988 for catering the needs of Gujarat, union territory of Diu, Daman, Dadra and Nagar Haveli.