By noon today, Typhoon “Ompong” had cut through the Caraballo mountains following a quick whip of heavily populated Northern Luzon en route to exiting by mid-afternoon the landmass west-northwest of Laoag City, based on projections by the state weather bureau.
Despite this, Typhoon Signal No. 4 remains over a dozen provinces—Cagayan Province and Isabela, Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, Apayao, Abra, Kalinga, Mountain Province, Benguet, Ifugao, Nueva Vizcaya and Qurino—where Signal No. 3 had been in effect since last night.
The Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) said “Ompong,” moving northwest at 30 kph, was to hit land between 1 am and 3 am Saturday, ramming into Cagayan and Isabela first.
Signal No. 3 is likely to be raised over five more provinces—La Union, Pangasinan, Tarlac, Nueva Ecija, and Zambales—while Pampanga, Bulacan and Bataan would be under Signal No. 2.
Metro Manila would still be under Signal No. 1, along with Rizal, Cavite, Batangas, Laguna and Quezon.
The weather bureau had placed Polillo Island, the northern part of Occidental Mindoro including Lubang Island, the northern part of Oriental Mindoro, Masbate, Marinduque, Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Catanduanes, Albay, Sorsogon, Burias and Ticao islands, and Northern Samar under Signal No. 1 on Friday.
Ompong was packing maximum winds of 205 kilometers per hour and gustiness of up to 255 kph on Friday night. Although not yet a super typhoon, Ompong remains powerful, with a huge diameter of 900 kms.
“Ompong” will enhance the southwest monsoon to bring gusty winds with occasional moderate to heavy rains over the Visayas.
Scattered light to moderate to at times heavy rains will prevail over Palawan, Zamboanga Peninsula, Northern Mindanao and Caraga Region.
Storm surge-prone areas of Cagayan and Isabela and the Ilocos provinces may expect up to six meters (above mean sea level) of surge on Saturday morning.
Preparations were in high gear on Friday with Ompong set to make a direct hit in less than 24 hours,
packing winds up to 255 kilometers per hour and drenching rains.
Thousands fled their homes on the Philippines’ northern coastal tip ahead of the early Saturday landfall of what is expected to be the disaster-prone nation’s fiercest storm yet this year.
Businesses and residents on Luzon island, which is home to millions, were boarding up windows and tying down roofs that could be sheared off by winds forecast to gust as high as 255 kilometers per hour.
“The rains will be strong and the winds are no joke... We may have a storm surge that could reach four storeys high,” Michael Conag, a spokesman for local civil defense authorities, said.
“This could destroy houses, especially the makeshift houses. Those are the ones most common in coastal areas.”
Heavy rains and high winds were just starting to pound the far northeastern tip of Luzon on Friday, but there have been no reports of major damage or flooding.
Farmers in the region, which produces a significant portion of the corn and rice, were rushing to bring in crops that could be destroyed by flooding.
At least four million people are directly in Ompong’s path, which is predicted to move on to China’s heavily populated southern coast—including Hong Kong—this weekend.
“We are really frightened. They say it [typhoon] is so strong,” said Delaila Pasion, who had fled her home in the northern Philippines. “We were too scared to remain.”
“During the previous monsoon rains, half of our house was destroyed so I wanted to take my grandchildren to safety,” she told said Thursday.
Flooding and landslides in the hilly region were top concerns as authorities prepared equipment for rescue and relief operations.
An average of 20 typhoons and storms lash the Philippines each year, killing hundreds of people and leaving millions in near-perpetual poverty.
The country’s deadliest on record is Super Typhoon “Yolanda,” which left more than 7,350 people dead or missing across the central Philippines in November 2013.
The state weather service said Ompong will be the strongest typhoon so far this year, with sustained winds of 205 kilometers per hour.
Poor communities reliant on fishing are some of the most vulnerable to fierce typhoon winds and the storm surges that pound the coast.
“It will bring destruction. They are the ones greatly affected. Even moderate winds can topple their houses,” regional civil defense official Dante Balao said Thursday.
The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council warned of storm surges as high as 14 meters in coastal areas.
Edgar Posadas of the NDRRMC said an estimated 5.2-million people would be affected by the typhoon. Of these, 983,100 were considered poor.
An independent weather monitor, Weather Philippines Foundation, said Ompong would bring rains over areas within its 1,010-kilometer diameter.
Hong Kong is also in the typhoon’s sights and preparations there were already underway Friday, though the storm was not expected to hit until Sunday.
The Hong Kong Observatory warned that the massive storm will bring “significantly deteriorating weather” to the city on Sunday and warned residents to take precautions.
Taiwan’s central weather bureau predicted that the typhoon would be nearest to the island on Saturday, bringing heavy rains to its southern and eastern parts although it was unlikely to make a direct hit. With AFP
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