A very dangerous situation is unfolding in the Philippines as Typhoon Hagupit, locally known as Ruby, makes landfall in the province of Eastern Samar. More than 30 million people will be impacted by this cyclone.
Hagupit rapidly strengthened into a super typhoon on Wednesday afternoon and into Thursday with sustained winds over 241 kph (150 mph), the equivalent to a Category 4 hurricane in the Atlantic or Eastern Pacific Ocean.
It weakened on Thursday evening and into early Friday after going through some strong wind shear. Hagupit briefly restrengthened back to a super typhoon on Friday evening before losing super typhoon status again early on Saturday morning.
AccuWeather.com Meteorologist Anthony Sagliani warned “Even with the frequent intensity changes of Hagupit, it is important that those in its path realize that a deadly, destructive storm surge is still possible near and just north of where landfall occurs.”
The cyclone could still bring catastrophic damage, especially near land-falling areas. Sagliani mentioned “the coast of Western Samar, Northern Samar, Sorsogon, Albany, Camarines Sur and Catanduanes provinces are the most susceptible.”
Wind gusts over 240 kph (150 mph) are expected near landfall in eastern Visayas. Landfall is expected within 100 miles of where Super Typhoon Haiyan made landfall last year.
Hagupit will slow its forward speed as it approaches and moves through the Philippines through early next week. Due to this slow movement, areas will experience this extreme weather for a long duration, further increasing the damage and impacts of the storm.
With landfall farther north, the hardest-hit areas by Haiyan will escape the worst tidal surge from Hagupit but will still be severely impacted; this includes the city of Tacloban which was devastated by Haiyan. To make matters worse, some areas are still trying to recover from Haiyan, which will leave them more vulnerable to the impacts of Hagupit.
Even though the strongest winds are expected near where Hagupit makes landfall, wind gusts over 100 mph will be possible across much of eastern Visayas and Bicol. Damaging winds will be possible from central Luzon into Southern Tagalog, Mindoro, western Visayas and central Visayas.
Rainfall will also produce dramatic flooding along the path of Hagupit with 150-300 mm (6-12 inches) falling across much of Visayas as well as southern and eastern Luzon.
This magnitude of rainfall will likely produce widespread flooding along with a heightened risk for mudslides. Mudslides and flooding could result in some areas being cut off from outside aid for several days following this storm, so people living in these areas should acquire any needed supplies to be prepared for this powerful cyclone.
“Some places are likely to have over 20 inches of rainfall because of the slow nature of the storm,” said AccuWeather.com Meteorologist Matthew Rinde.
Strong winds and saturated ground will likely also result in numerous downed trees and power lines. Areas hardest hit could be without electricity for a week or longer.
According to AccuWeather.com Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski, “While damaging wind and flooding from a typical typhoon only lasts several hours, strong winds, heavy rain and pounding waves from Hagupit could last a couple of days.”
While Hagupit will weaken some again as it moves westward across the Philippines, it may still be a typhoon when it emerges into the South China Sea to the west of the Philippines next week. The cyclone would then continue westward and could make another landfall with life-threatening impacts in Vietnam late next week.
Although the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) website was down due to technical problems on Thursday, it is now up and running.
AccuWeather.com Meteorologist Courtney Spamer contributed content to this story.