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Satellite view of Cyclone Yaas in the Bay of Bengal on May 24, 2021. (CIRA/RAMMB)

Tropical Cyclone Yaas formed in the Bay of Bengal Sunday night eastern time, and is poised to intensify -- perhaps at a rapid rate, as it swirls toward landfall in the Indian coastal state of Odisha on May 26.

The big picture: The storm, which may reach Category 2 or 3 intensity prior to landfall, threatens to cause more disruptions at the same time as India is reeling from a devastating surge in coronavirus cases.

Threat level: Historically, individual Bay of Bengal cyclones have killed tens of thousands, as the coastlines of India and Bangladesh in particular are extremely vulnerable to storm surge flooding.

  • However, gains have been made in storm preparation and evacuations in recent years, which has lowered the death toll from even the most powerful cyclones.

The details: The storm is in a favorable environment for intensification, with the only inhibiting factor so far being some dry air at mid-to-upper levels of the atmosphere,

  • The warm waters of the Bay of Bengal can help fuel explosive development of this type of storm, with the India Meteorological Department (IMD) warning that it is likely to make landfall Wednesday as a "Very Severe" cyclone.
A tweet previously embedded here has been deleted or was tweeted from an account that has been suspended or deleted.
  • The IMD has issued wind and rainfall warnings for portions of Odisha and West Bengal. In addition to the hazards that high winds and heavy rainfall post, storm surge flooding -- which is the wind-driven increase in water above normally dry land at the coast will be a major threat along and to the north of the storm center.
  • It's possible that some surge and heavy rainfall-related flooding will occur in Kolkata, which lies to the north of the storm's projected track.

What we're watching: The storm has under two days to spin over the waters of the Bay of Bengal before it crosses the coast, and the wild card is just how strong the storm will get during this time.

  • While some computer models are hinting that it may rapidly intensify into a much more dangerous weather system, it could hold at Category 1 intensity through landfall if it develops more slowly.

Go deeper

Biden administration to invest $1 billion to prepare states for extreme weather

Biden walks to Marine One on May 22. Photo: Chris Kleponis/CNP/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Biden administration plans to invest $1 billion helping states prepare for extreme weather ahead of the 2021 hurricane season, alongside an initiative to track natural disasters through a new NASA program.

Why it matters: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) expects above-average storm activity during the next hurricane season, which would make this the sixth unusually active season in a row.

Updated 2 hours ago - Science

NTSB probes crash that killed 10 in Alabama as storm lashes Southeast

Flash-flooding in Bloomington, Indiana, on Saturday. Photo: Jeremy Hogan/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The National Transportation Safety Board announced Sunday that it's investigating a fiery multi-vehicle weekend crash in Alabama that killed 10 people, including nine children, as storms swept the Southeast.

The big picture: Saturday's crash on Interstate 65, south of Montgomery, occurred amid a tropical depression that left 13 people dead in Alabama as it triggered flash floods and spawned tornadoes that razed "dozens of homes" over the weekend, per AP.

Laurel Hubbard to become 1st openly trans athlete to compete at Olympics

New Zealand's Laurel Hubbard at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia, when she became the first openly transgender athlete to represent NZ. Photo: Scott Barbour/Getty Images

The New Zealand Olympic Committee has announced that Laurel Hubbard has been selected for the women's weightlifting team for the Tokyo Games — making her the first openly transgender athlete to compete at the event.

The big picture: Hubbard, 43, is part of a five-member Kiwi weightlifting team and will compete in the women's super heavyweight category. Meanwhile, BMX rider Chelsea Wolfe will become the first openly trans athlete to travel to the Olympics with Team USA, when she arrives in Tokyo as a reserve rider.