Bicol region felt the first violent winds and intense to torrential rainfall of Typhoon “Rolly” late Saturday night as the world’s strongest storm this year barreled closer to the eastern Philippine coast.
In its 11 p.m. update, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said Rolly (international name Goni) was just 185 kilometers east of Virac, Catanduanes, as the storm moved west southwest at 25 km/h.
Forecasters expect it to make landfall at or near its current peak intensity over Camarines Norte and Sur provinces and over mainland Quezon province by Sunday afternoon.
Signal No. 4 was raised for the first time in decades over the island province of Catanduanes, while more areas were added under it.
That includes the eastern portion of Camarines Sur (including Iriga City and the towns of Buhi, Baao, Pili, Naga City, Bombon, Calabanga, Ocampo, Sagnay, Tigaon, Goa, Tinambac, Siruma, Lagonoy, Garchitorena, San Jose, Presentacion, Caramoan), and the northern portion of Albay (Tiwi, Polangui, Malinao, Tabaco City, Malilipot, Bacacay, Rapu-Rapu).
Signal No. 3 remained over Camarines Norte, the rest of Camarines Sur and Albay, Burias and Ticao Islands, Sorsogon, Quezon, Laguna, Rizal, the eastern portion of Batangas including Batangas City and Tanauan City, Marinduque, the northern portion of Oriental Mindoro (Puerto Galera, San Teodoro, Baco, Calapan City, Naujan, Victoria, Pola, Socorro, Pinamalayan), and the northern portion of Romblon (Concepcion, Banton, Corcuera).
Metro Manila is squarely in the path of Rolly, with Signal No. 2 raised in the National Capital Region, most of Central and Southern Luzon, and Samar, Eastern Samar, Antique, and Aklan.
The rest of Luzon and Visayas were under Signal No. 1, as authorities evacuated over a million Filipinos over fears of storm surges reaching as high as six meters (18 feet, equal to a two-story building).
Packing maximum sustained winds of up to 215 kilometers per hour and gusts of up to 265 km/h, Rolly will then cross the middle of Luzon before it is forecast to exit the landmass into the West Philippine Sea on Monday morning.
PAGASA forecasters said Rolly is deemed strong but its diameter is smaller than the destructive Typhoon Yolanda, which killed over 6,000 people when it battered several parts of the country in 2013.
This means Rolly will affect fewer areas than Yolanda, with its violent winds and heavy rainfall to be mostly felt on areas along its path such as Bicol, Calabarzon, Bicol, Metro Manila, and Central Luzon.
Classified as a category 5 storm by world meteorologists, Rolly has one-minute sustained winds of up to 300 km/h, according to the Force Thirteen cyclone tracking group, but PAGASA uses ten-minute sustained wind speeds for its storm categories.
Rolly will still likely be a major typhoon when making landfall and could still be a super typhoon or category 5 if it moves slightly north of current expectations, the cyclone trackers added.
“While Goni (#RollyPH) is near peak intensity, the typhoon could intensify again during the next 12-18 hours before a weakening trend begins as it makes its final approach to Luzon and Bicol in the Philippines,” Force Thirteen said on its YouTube live stream.
In addition, PAGASA was also tracking the international storm “Atsani,” which is on the heels of Goni and would be named “Siony” once it enters the Philippine area of responsibility (PAR).
Atsani is a much weaker storm, with speeds of 55 km/h near the center. It was still 1,655 km east of Luzon outside PAR, moving northwest at 25 km/h.
PAGASA said there was a high risk of storm surge of more than three meters (nine feet) over the northern coastal areas of Quezon including Polillo Islands, Camarines Provinces, and Catanduanes.
The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) had warned of storm surges of 2.1 to 3 meters high (six to nine feet) in the coasts of Manila, Cavite, Bulacan, Pampanga, Bataan, Batangas, and Quezon in text alerts it sent across the country.
Over a million residents of Luzon and Visayas were forced to evacuate low lying areas and coastlines, as the country's disaster response agency is expecting widespread damage from Rolly.
“We expect widespread damage even if it does not become a super typhoon. If it reaches typhoon level, we may go as high as Typhoon Signal No. 4 and have wind speeds of 171-220 kph and expect heavy to very heavy damage along its path,” NDRRMC Director Ricardo Jalad said in a virtual briefing on state-run PTV.
Jalad said Rolly would be the "strongest storm to hit since Typhoon Yolanda" -- which crushed several areas in the Visayas region, killed over 6,000 people, and destroyed structures across the central islands in November 2013, with reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts still ongoing there.
Malacañang appealed to the public to “stay calm yet vigilant” as Typhoon Rolly stormed closer.
“We ask the public, especially the residents of potential areas that will be affected by the typhoon to stay calm yet vigilant, check the latest government weather advisory, listen to the radio or watch television for more information, secure their house and vehicle, and keep their family members and loved ones dry and safe,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a statement.
Roque assured the public that concerned disaster agencies such as the NDRRMC and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) are now on standby 24/7 for Rolly.
The Camarines Sur provincial government began forced evacuation of residents in high-risk areas by Saturday afternoon. A day earlier, Gov. Miguel Luis Villafuerte signed Memorandum No. 4 that ordered the evacuation of residents living in houses made of light materials and those in landslide and flood-prone barangays.
The Philippine Coast Guard suspended sea trips in areas on the path of the storm to ensure the safety of passengers and fishermen and kept ships anchored in major ports, including in Mindoro, Batangas, Lucena in Quezon, and Manila.