10 Million People at Risk as Super Typhoon Mangkhut Heads for Philippine Landfall

Super typhoon Mangkhut, projected to hit the Philippines by the morning of September 15 as a Category 5 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 167 mph, will be the strongest storm to hit the Philippines this year and even bigger than 2013’s Super Typhoon Haiyan, which killed over 6,000.

NOAA weather satellite image of Mangkhut (Ompong) as of 7:30 AM Philippine Time on September 14, 2018. Photo: National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration

The new storm -- called Ompong in the Philippines -- is currently off the Philippine coast. As of 8 AM September 14 Philippine time, the storm was holding steady with maximum sustained winds of 205 km/h (127 mph) and gusts to 255 km/h (158 mph. It is expected to strengthen significantly as it moves across open waters, reaching Category 5/Super Typhoon designation soon.

Under current projections, the storm, currently located 605 kilometers east of Baler, Aurora, and moving northwest at 20 kilometers per hour (12 mph), will make landfall in northern Cagayan at around 5 am September 15, local time. (That’s 5 pm EDT on September 14.)

Northern Cagayan is in the northern tip of the province of Luzon. Because of the enormous 900 km (560 mile) diameter of the storm, its heavy rainfall will begin to affect the Philippines’ northern and eastern coastlines very soon. Manila, the capital, could experience those rains and associated flooding as early as Friday afternoon, Philippine time.

As the storm churns northwards, deaths from the powerful winds, collapsing structures, blown debris, landslides and flooding are expected. They may not be in as large numbers as during Super Typhoon Haiyan (known locally as Yolanda) in 2013, in part because the storm will be traveling across much less heavily populated areas than Haiyan blew across. Philippine President Duterte was already mobilizing to deal with the expected destruction and human toll, as are various relief agencies.

Luzon, the province to be most affected by the storm, is also a region referred to as the country’s “breadbasket”. Torrential rains and flooding from a storm like this would be a problem any time. Now, with the country’s staple corn and rice harvests just beginning, makes this a bigger concern at this time. There is the potential for major losses in both during the next few days without quick action, so farmers are currently scrambling to bring in as much of that harvest early and secure it now.

Current projected path of Mangkhut (Ompong), as of Friday, September 14, 2018. Photo: PAGASA

According to PAGASA, the Philippines Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration, Mangkhut (Ompong) is expected to hit with storm surges over 6 meters (19.6 feet) high. That’s higher than the 5-meter-high waves Super typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) produced five years ago. The new storm will affect major coastal areas along Cagayan and slightly south of that.

Flights in the area have also been curtailed. This includes both within the Philippines and flights in China’s Hong Kong region.

After passing out of the Philippine region, the storm is expected to strengthen again as it head directly towards the Chinese coast, just south of Hong Kong and Shenzhen. From there it is projected to head to the China/Vietnam border.

Those in the path of the storm are urged to take immediate precautions to secure shelter and evacuate per instructions from local authorities.