People in coastal districts of Andhra Pradesh heaved a sigh of relief on Thursday as the third cyclonic storm in over a month, which was expected to cause extensive damage, weakened before it hit the state.
`Lehar', earlier characterised as a "very severe cyclonic storm", lost its intensity considerably and turned into a depression.
"Lehar hit the Andhra coast south of Machilipatnam (in Krishna district) after 2 pm. It was a very severe cyclonic storm on November 25. It is now moving over the coast as a depression.
"The four districts of Guntur, Krishna, East and West Godavari districts received rainfall under its influence," State Disaster Management Commissioner C Parthasarathi told reporters.
He said sporadic rainfall, heavy at some places, has been reported from the four coastal districts today and downpour is likely to occur over the coastal districts and Telangana in the next 12 hours.
Despite `Lehar' losing its severity, fishermen are still advised against venturing into the sea. They may be allowed to go for fishing from Friday, Parthasarathi said.
No human loss and significant loss of property have been reported under the influence of `Lehar', he said. As the cyclonic storm was expected to cause massive destruction in the coastal districts, the state government made elaborate arrangements to deal with the situation. It had requisitioned helicopters, army personnel and additional teams of National Disaster Response Force from the Centre.
The Commissioner said over 45,000 people had been evacuated to safer places in the four coastal districts till yesterday, but no fresh evacuations were made today. `Lehar' lost intensity as it entered into the region of colder sea surface. Another factor is vertical wind shear of horizontal wind (difference of wind at upper tropospheric and lower tropospheric level) increased, he explained.
High vertical wind shear is said to be unfavourable for maintaining intensity. The winds coming from Central India is another factor for `Lehar' to lose its intensity, he said.
Lehar is the third cyclone to hit Andhra Pradesh coast in over a month. `Phailin', which hit Odisha and Andhra coast in mid-October, claimed one life in Srikakulam district.
Heavy rains, in the aftermath of the cyclone, claimed a number of lives and damaged crops. `Helen', which crossed the AP coast last week, led to the death of six persons and damaged crops.