By Helen Flores (The Philippine Star) Updated October 16, 2010 12:00 AM Comments (9)
MANILA, Philippines - A powerful typhoon that could intensify into the highest hurricane category is barreling toward the Philippines, international storm trackers reported yesterday.
Typhoon “Megi,” which will be called “Juan” when it enters the Philippine area of responsibility (PAR), is expected to make landfall in Northern Luzon in two to four days.
Megi was last spotted 1,200 kilometers east of Southern Tagalog, heading toward the Philippines at 20 kilometers per hour with maximum sustained winds of 120 kph and gustiness reaching up to 150 kph, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) said.
The US Navy Joint Typhoon Warning Center on its website said Megi is forecast to reach Northern Luzon within four days.
The storm’s maximum sustained winds were blowing at 167 kph and may strengthen to 250 kph as it approaches the northern part of the Philippines, the center said.
This would make it a Category 5 storm, the highest on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind scale, capable of “catastrophic damage,” according to the US National Hurricane Center.
Tropical Storm Risk (TSR) in its website also made a forecast that Megi will turn into a Category 4 storm.
TSR said Megi would exit Vigan City in Ilocos Sur on Monday.
Several weather monitoring websites also made forecasts that Megi would turn into a Category 4 storm, expecting to hit northern Philippines on the weekend.
Pagasa, on the other hand, said the typhoon is expected to make landfall on Monday afternoon, over the eastern coast of Cagayan-Isabela area and exit on the areas of Ilocos Sur and La Union.
Megi is expected to enter the PAR on Friday night or early Saturday, according to Pagasa.
At the same time, Pagasa issued a warning bulletin advising the public of the approach of the powerful typhoon to give them time to take precautions.
Pagasa chief Graciano Yumul said Megi is expected to bring heavy rains like tropical storm “Ondoy” to affected areas.
Ondoy (international name Ketsana) brought a month’s worth of rainfall in a span of hours that inundated Metro Manila and nearby provinces last year.
Pagasa said Juan (Megi) would have strong winds like typhoon “Basyang” that directly hit Metro Manila on July 13, which toppled power lines and left most parts of the metropolis and nearby provinces without power.
Pagasa deputy chief Daniel Servando said Megi could intensify and become a super typhoon.
Servando said strong winds and heavy rains are expected to be felt in some parts of the country, including Ilocos region, Cagayan Valley and Central Luzon starting Sunday.
Pagasa senior weather forecaster Robert Sawi said the weather bureau is expected to issue storm-warning signals beginning Sunday morning.
Pagasa is also expected to issue hourly updates on the storm’s location.
For the next 24 hours, Sawi said Central and Southern Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao would experience mostly cloudy skies with scattered rain showers and thunderstorms.
Servando, on the other hand, said the eastern seaboards of Luzon would have rough to very rough seas.
“Fishermen are advised not to venture out over the eastern and northern coasts of Luzon,” he advised.
The Office of the Civil Defense (OCD) also issued a warning to fishermen over the approaching typhoon.
“We urge the families of these fishermen who went out to sea last week to text their relatives to come back… we aim for zero casualties,” OCD administrator Benito Ramos said.
“We also urge farmers in Isabela to harvest their crops now,” he said.
Ramos also advised against traveling on Sunday morning, particularly in landslide prone areas of Northern and Eastern Luzon.
Ramos said the Department of Social Welfare and Development, Department of Health and local government units have been alerted to prepare evacuation centers as well as food packs and medicine.
The Philippine National Police (PNP) said they have already made preparations for the expected typhoon.
PNP deputy spokesman Senior Superintendent Noel Baraceros said national police have already prepared rescue equipment and coordinated with local government agencies for immediate response in areas to be affected by the storm.
“We advise our regional directors to prepare precautionary measures in case the storm hits their area of responsibility,” Baraceros said.
Sen. Loren Legarda also called on local officials to prepare for the approaching storm.
“The challenge is… to make cities resilient to hazards because losses due to disasters are always greatly felt in the local level,” Legarda said.
On the other hand, President Aquino said he is expecting Pagasa to improve its weather updates.
Although admitting that weather prediction is “not an absolute science,” the President maintained there should be areas of improvement, particularly where the storm is going, which is crucial in times of calamity.
“It has to be closer to what will transpire. A storm system can move erratically and we’re trying our best. But we would want to have most timely (information). Significant changes should be made known to the public the soonest possible time,” he said.
Updates, as soon as necessary, must be made, Mr. Aquino said, so that people in the affected areas will be warned about any possible evacuation. – With Cecille Suerte Felipe, Delon Porcalla, Marvin Sy
Reposted From Philippine Star