The planet’s strongest storm in 2018, so far, is on a collision course with the Philippines. At least four times as intense as Hurricane Florence, Super Typhoon Mangkhut is expected to make landfall on the island of Luzon early Saturday, local time.
The typhoon, equivalent in strength to a Category 5 hurricane, contains sustained winds of more than 165 mph at its core, with gusts approaching 200 mph. Evacuations are ongoing in Cagayan, the northernmost province of Luzon.
The Joint Typhoon Warning Center forecasts Mangkhut to remain at Category 5 strength through landfall.
There is a slight chance the storm’s 30-mile-wide eye may pass just north of Luzon, threading the needle between the Philippines and Taiwan. Though this is unlikely, it could cut back slightly on the winds. In gusts as powerful as those within Mangkhut, a Boeing 737 could lift off the ground without even igniting its twin engines.
The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) warned of disastrous coastal impacts from the storm. “The Storm Surge prone areas of Cagayan and Isabela may expect up to 6 meters [20 feet] (above mean sea level) of surge,” the governmental agency wrote on its website.
Level 3 Tropical Cyclone Warning Signals — similar to a hurricane warning — have been raised in 12 Philippine municipalities. The alerts may be upgraded to Level 4 or 5 in the hours before landfall.
A mass exodus is already underway at the shorelines as thousands of fishermen abandon their vessels and seek higher ground. The largely rural communities are anticipating significant crop damage as well.
“Many coconut trees may be broken or destroyed,” PAGASA warned. “Moderate to heavy damage may be experienced, particularly in the agricultural and industrial sectors.”
The economic impacts may be similar to those left in the wake of Haiyan, the notorious super typhoon that hit the central Philippine archipelago in 2013. That storm wrought financial havoc, racking up $14.5 billion in damage, Bloomberg reported.
As the storm moves inland, it will likely weaken to a Category 3 and drop excessive rainfall. Many mountain communities west of the Pan-Philippine Highway (AS26) could see two to three feet of rain. Flooding may result in landslides that could isolate remote communities, if not wipe them out.
In the Philippines, the storm is being called Typhoon Ompong. The country uses a different list of names from the more commonly used typhoon list maintained by the Japan Meteorological Agency.
Hong Kong will be next in line. The city of 7 million is bracing for a storm of “extraordinary speed, scope and severity,” warned Security Minister John Lee Ka-chiu. The storm’s expansive cloud field stretches a whopping 1,000 miles.
Mangkhut is forecast to meander over the South China Sea before dissipating over northern Vietnam early next week.
The presentation of the monster storm and its menacing eye from weather satellite imagery is remarkable. See some animations below: