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Posted at 09:55 AM ET, 08/16/2012

Kai-tak (Helen) intensifies to typhoon, likely to make landfall south of Hong Kong

Update, 9:40 a.m. EDT, Thursday (9:40 p.m. Hong Kong local time): Kai-tak has been upgraded to a typhoon, with maximum sustained winds of around 75 mph. The track forecast has shifted the expected landfall to the south and west, steering the brunt of the storm south of Hong Kong in western Guangdong. Nevertheless, the Hong Kong Observatory has a signal no. 3 bulletin, meaning strong winds of 25-40 mph are likely. It expects to raise this to signal no. 8 indicating the potential for gale to storm force winds overnight tonight.
Track forecast for tropical storm Kai-tak, predicted to become a typhoon (Joint Typhoon Warning Center)

From 3:06 p.m. EDT Wednesday (3:06 a.m. Thursday, Hong Kong local time): A strong tropical storm that slammed the northern Philippines has its sights set on the region around Hong Kong.

Named Kai-tak but known as Helen locally, the storm has maximum sustained winds of about 65 mph and was positioned 370 miles east-southeast of Hong Kong at 8 p.m. local time (8 a.m. EDT) in the south China Sea.

The Joint Typhoon Warning Center projects the storm’s peak winds to increase to 85 mph in the next day, which would make it a low-end typhoon.


It is predicted to make landfall around 8 p.m. local time (8 a.m. EDT) Thursday just west of Hong Kong in southern China.

As Kai-tak swept across Luzon Island - the northernmost island in the Philippines, it triggered landslides and killed two people. Rainfall rates were as high as 1.4 inches per hour Agence France-Presse reported. Over ocean waters of the Pacific, Our Amazing Planet said rainfall rates reached 4 inches per hour based on satellite estimates.

Adding to the chaos in the Philippines, the Associated Press reported state weather agency employees staged a protest about their wages during the storm. It wrote:

Forecasters and other employees of the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration wore black arm bands and hoisted streamers urging the government to resume hazard pay and other allowances.

While the workers did not plan any work stoppage, protest leader Ramon Agustin said some hard-up employees have failed to report for work due to lack of money.

Satellite image of tropical storm Kai-tak in the South China sea (NOAA)
Satellite imagery shows the storm has passed the Philippines which have endured two weeks of on and off torrential rains killing nearly 100 people and displacing 400,000. At one point, about half the capital city of Manila was under water.

With the storm now eyeing south China and Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Observatory has issued its “standby signal, no. 1” which encourages “precautions against damage” such as clearing gutters as well as securing hinges, bolts, locks and shudders of windows and doors.

Should Kai-tak make hit Hong Kong as a typhoon, it would be the second such storm do so in the last month. Vicente, a more powerful typhoon with winds to 140 mph, came ashore southwest of Hong Kong July 24.

By  |  09:55 AM ET, 08/16/2012

Categories:  Latest, Tropical Weather

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