A dangerous typhoon is making landfall in the Philippines just days after another major storm. Local emergency managers are warning storm surge could exceed 15 feet in the northernmost region of Luzon. Another foot of rain is likely on top of soaking-wet soil.
Typhoon Haima, known as Lawin in the Philippines, is a monster of a storm. With sustained winds at 160 mph, it became the fifth super typhoon of 2016 on Tuesday morning. The average for this time of year is approximately three. It’s also the seventh Category-5 equivalent of the year, globally.
On Wednesday, Haima made landfall in northern Luzon with 140-mph winds — the equivalent of a Category 4 hurricane.
— John Morales (@JohnMoralesNBC6) October 19, 2016
The storm comes just days after Typhoon Sarika, which rapidly intensified into a Category 4 just before making landfall Sunday in Luzon. Sarika killed at least two people in the Philippines before tracking to China and prompting hundreds of thousands of evacuations, Al Jazeera reports.
Sarika’s heavy rain already saturated Luzon’s soil, which dramatically increases the chance of deadly landslides during Haima.
“Sarika’s west-northwest track took it across the heart of the island, where it produced rainfall totals that topped 20 inches in spots,” Weather Underground’s Bob Henson and Jeff Masters said Tuesday in a blog post. “Haima is likely to dump another 10 — 20” of rain, with even higher local totals, across the northern half of Luzon.”
The Philippines weather agency is comparing Haima’s potential impacts to Super Typhoon Haiyan, known as Yolanda in the Philippines, which killed more than 6,000 people in 2013.
“Residents in disaster-prone areas are alerted against the possibility of landslides and [flash floods],” the Philippines emergency management director, Ricardo Jalad, told the Philippines Star. “The occurrence of storm surge of up to five meters is likely to happen over the coast of Cagayan.”
Haima may have a “high humanitarian impact” and could affect as many as 11.6 million people with direct damage, flooding or cuts in critical services and transport links, according to the U.N. Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System.
The only good news is that the storm is making landfall on the northern end of Luzon, which is less populated than the central or southern Philippines. Tacloban City was decimated after Haiyan, and fortunately that city will be spared this super typhoon.
Haima isn’t just strong, it’s also huge. On Tuesday, hurricane-force winds (64 mph or stronger) spread out 70 miles from the eye of the typhoon, covering an area of 16,000 square miles — about the same area of Switzerland. If we extend it farther to include tropical storm-force winds, that area increases to the state of New York. A significant portion of the northern Philippines will be exposed to destructive winds.
The strength of these typhoons can be partly attributed to exceptionally warm water in the West Pacific. Nowhere on Earth is sea surface temperature warmer. This is a signal of the impending La Niña, which pushes the warmest water west across the tropics and tends to increase the number and intensity of typhoons in the region.