Cyclone Chapala is now in the books as the first hurricane on record to hit the Arabian Peninsula country of Yemen. As forecasters feared, the storm’s torrential rains are wreaking havoc on the arid landscape, inundating coastal cities, destroying homes and leaving dozens missing, according to news reports.

The scale of the flooding and the unusual path of the storm are put in stark relief in photos being spread across news sites and social media. Satellites captured stunning images of the storm nearing landfall as it entered the Gulf of Aden, something never before recorded.

An animation of the storm seen in the microwave range of the light spectrum showed the unusual southerly path it took. Most storms in the Arabian Sea tend to venture northward, and many peter out at sea before they can make landfall. The only storms known to have hit Yemen before were tropical depressions, which are much weaker and less organized storms, though they still caused considerable damage in the poverty-stricken country.



Chapala’s path was particularly bad for the port city of Mukalla, which was hit by the right front section of the storm, typically the most intense area of a tropical cyclone. A NASA satellite measured the rate of rainfall in parts of the storm at nearly 2 inches per hour as it approached Yemen.

GPM Chapala

On Saturday, NASA's GPM satellite captured rainfall rates of 1.7 inches per hour east of Chapala's eye

Torrential rains, which are expected to reach upwards of 20 inches in some areas, have ushered in severe floods in Mukalla and the surrounding area.


The country usually only sees 2 to 4 inches of rain in an entire year and was ill-prepared for Chapala’s onslaught.



Yemen is in the midst of a crippling civil war that has pitted the Houthi rebels against a Saudi-led coalition fighting on behalf of the president-in-exile. The fighting has killed hundreds and left many in a perilous food situation. The city of Mukalla isn’t in the main area of fighting, but is controlled by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and news reports quoted locals who said the group was ill-prepared to deal with the flooding.

“There is no state in Mukalla,” Iona Craig, a freelance reporter in the city, told Mashable.

Chapala’s winds and waves also caused damage. News reports quoted locals in Mukalla who said that waves had destroyed the seafront promenade as well as many homes.



المكلا صباح اليوم، بدء ارتفاع الأمواج على كورنيش المحضار بسبب قرب اعصار #تشابلا حفظ الله #حضرموت و #المهرة و #عمان و سائر بقاع الأرض من البلاء و سلم اهلنا أجمعين من دعاء الإمام الحداد رضي الله عنه، اللهم إنا نستودعك و نستحفظك أدياننا و أولادنا و أنفسنا و أموالانا و كل شيء أعطيتنا، اللهم اجعلنا و اياهم في كنفك و أمانك و عياذك من كل شيطان مريد و جبار عنيد و كل ذي بغي و عين و حسد و من شر كل ذي شر إنك على كل شيء قدير، اللهم جملنا بالعافية و السلامة و حققنا بالتقوى و الاستقامة و أعذنا من موجبات الندامة في الحال و المال و المآل إنك قريب مجيب الدعوات، و صل اللهم على سيدنا محمد و آله و آله و سلم @instamukalla

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The waves churned up by the storms howling winds — which reached a peak of 155 mph on Oct. 31, making it the second strongest storm in the Arabian Sea by wind speed — were also a concern for the area’s busy shipping lanes.

Before it made landfall in Yemen, the storm caused considerable damage as it passed over the island of Socotra, where it killed at least one person and injured some 200, according to news reports. Chapala was a much stronger Category 4 when it hit the island than when it eventually struck Yemen as a low-end Category 1-equivalent storm. The storm was weakened through its interaction with the dry air coming off the Peninsula.

The exact damage and casualty figures will likely take some time to emerge from Yemen, given the unstable nature of the country.

Brian Kahn contributed reporting.