By Eric Leister – AccuWeather
Mekkhala is bearing down on the Philippines, putting the country at risk for heavy rain and gusty winds through Monday.
Although Mekkhala has weakened to a tropical storm, the main impact will remain flooding rain. Torrential rain will continue to accompany Mekkhala as it tracks from Samar, in the eastern Visayan Islands, to Luzon Island.
Pope Francis will be making a tour across parts of the Philippines through Monday, and although his itinerary is already laid out, this storm could force changes to the schedule.
A plane carrying Philippine government officials went off the runway Saturday afternoon, local time, at the Tacloban airport, just after the papal airplane took off, ANC-CBN News Channel in the Philippines reported.
A wheel on the plane apparently exploded as the pilot attempted his departure.
The plane was carrying at least 11 officials, including two Cabinet members: Paquito “Jojo” Navarro Ochoa Jr., the Executive Secretary of the Philippines, and Herminio B. Coloma Jr., the Secretary of the Presidential Communications Operations Office, ABS-CBN reported. All the passengers were safe after the incident.
Some of the worst impacts for eastern Visayas will occur through Saturday night, the same time Pope Francis is scheduled to make several appearances in the region.
Samar is one of the areas hardest hit by former Super Typhoon Haiyan, locally known as Yolanda. Pope Francis will be visiting eastern Visayas to interact with people who were severely impacted by this tragedy only a little more than a year ago.
On Sunday, the Pope is schedule to hold Mass at Rizal Park in Manila, an event that the Telegraph says 6,000,000 are expected to attend. This location is just north of the expected track of the center of the storm and far enough west to remain out of the greatest area of flooding.
Rainfall of 100-200 mm (4-8 inches) will likely create flooding problems in parts of eastern Visayas and Luzon while wind gusts to near 130 kph (80 mph) remain a possibility around Samar.
Areas from eastern Visayas into Luzon are at greatest risk for life-threatening flash flooding and mudslides, while the southern Philippines will likely have no widespread impacts from this storm.
Travel may also be hindered with flooded roadways and flight cancellations likely through early in the new week.
AccuWeather.com Meteorologists Courtney Spamer and Dave Samuhel and Staff Writer Mark Leberfinger contributed content to this story.