Typhoon Noul in the western Pacific, May 7, 2015 (NOAA)

Typhoon Noul, an intensifying storm in the western tropical Pacific, is on a track that will bring it very close to if not directly over the northern Philippines  this weekend.

The storm, whose maximum sustained winds have climbed rapidly to 115 mph, is the equivalent of a category 3 hurricane. Additional intensification is possible and the Joint Typhoon Warning Center predicts its peak winds will increase to over 130 mph by late Thursday (early Friday local time in the Philippines).

That forecast may be conservative given the warm waters ahead of the storm and lack of hostile wind shear. It’s not out of the question Noul achieves “super typhoon” intensity, with peak winds over 150 mph.

The storm is most likely to make landfall Saturday evening in the northern section of Luzon, the largest and most populated island of the Philippines. Damaging winds gusts over 120 mph (and perhaps to 150 mph) and coastal and inland flooding are likely. The UK Met Office says there is the potential for up to 15 inches (400 mmm) of rain.

“The northeast part of Luzon is mountainous, which could increase the risk for very heavy rains as Noul moves onshore or nearby, although a grazing landfall would put most of Luzon on the weaker western side of the circulation,” notes Weather Underground’s Jeff Masters.

In the Philippines, the storm is known as Dodong under its naming system. It is likely to pass far enough north of Manila to spare the capital city of its worst effects, but heavy showers are likely there over the weekend and a shift south in the storm track could bring more serious wind and rain.

Track forecast for Typhoon Noul (Joint Typhoon Warning Center)

After sweeping through the Philippines, Noul is forecast to curve to the north and then northeast as it gets absorbed into a jet stream trough. It could be in the vicinity of Okinawa by around next Tuesday, depending on its exact track – which becomes more uncertain with time.

Weather Underground’s Masters notes it has been a very fast start to the Pacific typhoon season. “Noul’s formation date of May 3 marks the second earliest appearance on record for the Northwest Pacific’s sixth named storm of the year, according to statistics of the Japan Meteorological Agency’s database from 1951 – 2015.”

A second tropical storm is forecast to form behind Noul keeping the active season going strong.