Earth’s strongest storm of 2013 so far, typhoon Utor, did a number on the northern Philippines.  Now it’s destined for southeastern China.

Utor, referred to as Labuyo in the Philippines, packed maximum sustained winds of 140 mph as it battered the northern island of Luzon.

The storm killed at least two people and destroyed 80 percent of the infrastructure in town of Casiguran near where it came inland according to reports.

Satellite view of Utor - around the time it reached peak "super typhoon" intensity (NOAA)
Satellite view of Utor – around the time it reached peak “super typhoon” intensity (NOAA)

In the hours prior to landfall, Utor’s intensity peaked at 150 mph, the equivalent of high-end category 4 hurricane and earning it “super typhoon” status (winds must be 150 mph for “super typhoon” classification), briefly.  That intensity bested any storm globally in 2013 writes Jeff Masters at wunderground.

“Earth’s previous most powerful tropical cyclone of 2013 was Typhoon Soulik, which reached Category 4 strength with 145 mph winds on July 10,” Masters says.

Animation of Utor as it passes over Philippines (CIMSS) Animation of Utor as it passes over Philippines (CIMSS)

As it passed over Luzon, Utor dumped over 7.5 inches of rain in the cities of Dagupan and and Baguio notes AccuWeather.

The storm weakened markedly as it crossed over Luzon’s mountainous terrain, but is likely to regain some strength as it passes over the South China Sea.  As of 11 a.m., the Joint Typhoon Warning Center says its maximum sustained winds are around 100 mph and it forecasts gradual strengthening over the next two days:

SLOW INTENSIFICATION OVER THE NEXT 48 HOURS IS 
EXPECTED, AS UPPER-LEVEL DIFFLUENCE REMAINS FAVORABLE, BUT EASTERLY 
VERTICAL WIND SHEAR AND DECREASING ALONG-TRACK OCEAN HEAT CONTENT 
RENDERS SIGNIFICANT INTENSIFICATION UNLIKELY.

By the time it nears landfall in the eastern part of south China, its peak winds are forecast to reach about 110 mph.


Track projection for typhoon Utor (Joint Typhoon Warning Center)

Tom Yulsman, science writer for Discover, cautions flooding may be a serious issue when Utor washes ashore.

“This region has already been hit in recent weeks by two previous typhoons, Mangkhut and Jebi, which brought over a foot of rain from southern China to Vietnam,” Yulsman writes. “Typhoon Utor could add insult to injury, with the potential for severe flooding.”