Computer simulation of the wind field associated with Typhoon Hagupit on Dec. 5, 2014.
If there's one thing the Philippines do not need, it's another super typhoon. Parts of the country, particularly the island of Samar, are still picking up the pieces after last year's devastating Super Typhoon Haiyan, which was one of the most powerful storms ever to make landfall anywhere.
While Super Typhoon Hagupit, which is also known as Ruby in the Philippines, will not strike with nearly the same ferocity, it presents a deadly array of threats to the Philippines, including its densely populated capital of Manila. As of Friday morning ET, Typhoon Hagupit had maximum sustained winds of 150 miles per hour, which is the equivalent of a high-end Category 4 storm, and the minimum wind threshold required for super typhoon status.
The Philippines' weather agency, known by the acronym PAGASA, and the U.S. Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC) forecast the storm to either make landfall on Samar or skirt just to the north, before making a beeline for Manila. PAGASA has placed 34 geographic areas under storm warnings, including the islands of Mindanao and Luzon, as well as the city of Tacloban, where evacuations have been underway.
The storm has weakened considerably from its peak strength as a strong Category 5 storm on Wednesday, but is holding its own, rather than continuing to weaken significantly before arriving in the Philippines. On Thursday night, the JTWC had forecast continued weakening, but backed off that forecast by Friday morning.
Manila, the low-lying nation's capital, has a population of 12 million, and experiences flooding in heavy rainfall events, as well as storm surge situations.
The storm's center will take at least two days to cross the country from southeast to northwest, which raises the likelihood of widespread heavy rains and landslides. Some areas may see rainfall amounts of greater than 2 feet. The Philippines has very hilly terrain, and soil on volcanic slopes can give way in such conditions, killing anyone in its path downhill.
Evacuations are underway in vulnerable parts of Samar, including Tacloban, where 95,000 families are still living in makeshift shelters in the wake of Haiyan.
According to a PAGASA bulletin issued at 11 p.m., local time, the storm is expected to make landfall on Saturday evening or early Sunday morning over the eastern Samar or northern Samar area. It may bring winds of greater than 150 miles per hour at times, along with a storm surge of up to 13 feet. The weather agency is predicting that the storm will produce rainfall of at least an inch per hour across an area measuring nearly 400 miles wide.
By Sunday evening, local time, the storm is expected to be located near Masbate City, which has a population of about 90,000.
PAGASA is warning those in the storm's path to prepare for flash flooding, landslides and major damage to structures, including housing. "Evacuation to a safer shelter is highly recommended," a PAGASA statement said.
The Philippines is one of the world's most disaster-prone countries, with high rates of population growth and coastal development acting to increase its vulnerability. Also, climate change is altering the frequency and severity of some extreme events, with the possibility that tropical cyclones will become more intense in this region in coming decades.
Sea level rise caused by manmade global warming is making storm surges from tropical storms and typhoons in the area more damaging. This is a particular challenge in Manila, which is a low-lying, rapidly growing city. Manila was hit, but only lightly damaged, by Typhoon Rammasun in July.
Tags: CLIMATE, PHILIPPINES, STORM SURGE, TYPHOON HAGUPIT, TYPHOON RUBY, US & World, WORLD