Typhoon Haiyan, roughly 48-60 hours from a dangerous encounter with the Philippines, is rapidly intensifying.

Satellite image of Typhoon Haiyan as of 20 UTC (NOAA)

The Joint Typhoon Warning Center estimates its maximum sustained winds are 120 mph (as of 18 UTC), the equivalent of a category 3 hurricane. That’s a a 70 mph increase since Monday when peak winds were around 50 mph (at 15 UTC).

Haiyan is forecast to have maximum sustained winds of 150 mph within 12 hours, which would classify it is a super typhoon. By Thursday, its highest sustained winds may peak around 160 mph, rendering it a catastrophic category 5 storm just as it is nearing landfall in the central Philippines.  The JTWC officially brings Haiyan ashore with peak winds near 155 mph around 6 UTC Friday (1 a.m EST, 2 p.m. local time in Manila).


Several tropical storms and typhoons have crossed the Philippines this year, but Haiyan promises to be among the most intense if not the strongest. (Utor crossed the northern Philippines as a category 4 storm in early August.)

“Haiyan will likely be the most dangerous tropical cyclone to affect the Philippines this year,” writes Wunderground meteorologist Jeff Masters. “This is particularly true since Tropical Depression Thirty dumped heavy rains over the central Philippines Monday, which helped saturate the soils.”

Tropical storms and typhoons to impact the Philippines this year (Brian McNoldy)

AccuWeather discusses Haiyan’s likely impacts in more detail:

Rain totals along the path of Haiyan could top 200 mm (8 inches). Mudslides are a serious concern in the higher terrain, where localized totals of 250 to 300 mm (10 to 12 inches) are not out of the question.

The expected track of Haiyan will take it directly over the areas hardest hit by a powerful 7.1 magnitude earthquake that killed more than 150 people in the middle of October.

Haiyan will also produce a severe and inundating storm surge, especially along the eastern coast of southern Luzon and Samar islands.

AccuWeather’s threat assessment for Typhoon Haiyan (AccuWeather.com)

Manila should remain north of the most violent part of the storm, but is still likely to be impacted by damaging winds and torrential rain.