Sun, Oct 17, 2010
Philippine Daily Inquirer/Asia News Network
Typhoon roars to Philippines' N. Luzon
MANILA, Philippines: Typhoon "Juan" has gathered more strength and momentum as it hurtled toward the east coast of northern Luzon, raising the possibility that Storm Signal No. 4, the highest alert, may be declared in the affected areas, the Philippine weather bureau said Saturday.
Pagasa [Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical &Astronomical Services Administration] chief weather forecaster Robert Sawi said Juan (international name: "Megi") entered the Philippine area of responsibility at about 1 a.m. Saturday and was moving west northwest. Public storm signal warnings are to be raised Sunday.
As of 7 p.m. on Saturday, Juan was 770 kilometers east of north Luzon.
Juan is now expected to make landfall on the eastern coast of Cagayan Monday morning instead of the afternoon, said Pagasa senior forecaster Mario Palafox.
The eye of the typhoon will track the provinces of Cagayan and Kalinga. It is expected to exit Ilocos Norte Monday afternoon, Palafox said.
If the typhoon moves lower to Central Luzon, "one of the scenarios is it will indirectly affect Metro Manila," Pagasa deputy administrator Nathaniel Servando noted.
But present models have shown that the typhoon moved higher, likely sparing the metropolis.
Palafox said Metro Manila would experience mostly cloudy skies and scattered rains starting Sunday.
Visayas and Mindanao will experience cloudy skies and scattered rain showers until Wednesday.
Servando described Juan as a "strong" typhoon comparable to "Reming," which devastated the Bicol region in 2006.
Science Secretary Mario Montejo said Juan could reach supertyphoon status as it was likely to hit 200 kilometers per hour.
"Yesterday (Friday) it was 105 kph; now it's 140 kph. Tomorrow (Sunday), if it's consistent, it might reach 175. By Monday, we might look at 200 plus kph. This is alarming. The typhoon is really strong," Montejo said
If Juan reaches 185 kph-a "big possibility" because it has been consistently gaining speed and intensity in the past few days-Pagasa will raise Storm Signal No. 4 in the provinces in its path, Servando said.
When Pagasa raises Storm Signal No. 4, "we advise total suspension of outdoor activities," he said.
The last time Pagasa raised its highest alert was in 2006, for Reming.
As of 5 p.m. Saturday, Juan was 820 km east of northern Luzon. Its wind strength near the center has increased by 20 kph to 140 kph since Pagasa's Friday bulletin, and gustiness has intensified to 170 kph from Saturday's 150 kph. It has also accelerated to 24 kph from Friday's 20 kph.
Pagasa officials said they had been directed by President Aquino to make hourly updates on Juan, the 10th weather disturbance to hit the country this year.
Local governments have been warned to prepare for flash floods, landslides and strong winds, and fishermen and sea-going vessels to stay inland.
"Rough seas" in the coastal areas of Cagayan, Isabela, Aurora and Quezon will become "rough and dangerous to all types of sea vessels by tomorrow (Sunday)," Pagasa said.
Benito Ramos, chief of the Office of Civil Defense (OCD), said it had been coordinating with local executives in Cagayan and Isabela to prepare for the typhoon.
Disaster response teams in these provinces, as well as those in the Navy and the Coast Guard, have been put on standby, Ramos said.
He said the OCD and Pagasa were also monitoring the major rivers and dams in northern Luzon.
Dr. Susan Espinueva, Pagasa's hydro-meteorology chief, said Magat Dam in Cagayan had a deficit of 3.73 meters as of 4 p.m. Saturday, and that it would need 120 millimeters of rainfall to reach its normal water level.
The other three major dams in Luzon-Angat, Pantabangan and San Roque-are also suffering a double-digit deficit in water level, Espinueva said.
With the President's objective of zero casualty in Juan's expected onslaught, Malaca?ang Saturday called on the public to be prepared and monitor the typhoon's movement through the media and the Internet.
As early as Friday night, Aquino called for cooperation from all concerned government and private-sector groups.
He said Pagasa had issued "advisories for the public to expect exceptionally heavy rainfall in the eastern coast of Isabela-Cagayan."
"Let us all work together to ensure zero casualty for the coming typhoon," the President said in a statement.
"I ask our countrymen in affected areas to cooperate with their barangay, municipal, provincial and national officials in ensuring that orderly and efficient preparations are made," he said.
Abigail Valte, the President's deputy spokesperson, said the public, particularly the residents of northern Luzon, could monitor the typhoon's movements through pagasa.dost.gov.ph, Twitter and hotline 433-ULAN.
"Let us be ready so that we can avoid damage?. Don't panic but be prepared," Valte said over government radio dzRB.
Aquino said those in the private sector could alert their employees, "particularly those who are Red Cross volunteers, to be ready to help when needed."
"We do not want to unduly alarm the public, but there is nothing lost by being prepared. Let us all do our part to ensure that we remain focused on proactive measures to reduce risk to the population," the President said.
"And I am confident our government will, once again, work hand in hand with the citizenry to bring out the best in all of us as we brace for the coming storm," he said.
Aquino had earlier announced better forecasting systems by Pagasa.
"We are confident that Pagasa and the [Department of Science and Technology] will continue to provide timely and useful information to the public," he said, adding, "In the meantime, I have instructed the MMDA [Metropolitan Manila Development Authority] and all relevant authorities to take down billboards until the typhoon is over."
MMDA Chairman Francis Tolentino said he had directed outdoor advertisers to take down their billboards and signs, particularly on Epifanio de los Santos Avenue, or Edsa, and other major thoroughfares.
As of Saturday, many billboard owners had heeded Tolentino's call.
"If needed, we can deploy men to take down those still up," said his spokesperson, lawyer Yves Gonzales.
Metro Manila police went on heightened alert Saturday and will go on full alert starting at noon Sunday as part of the preparations for the typhoon, on the instruction of Chief Superintendent Nicanor Bartolome, the newly installed director of the National Capital Region Police Office.
Aquino also said the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council was prepared for pre-emptive evacuation in affected areas, and that the Department of Social Welfare and Development had prepositioned relief goods.
Power command centers
National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP), the power transmission service provider and system operator, assured the public that it was prepared for the onslaught of Juan.
In a statement, NGCP said it would activate its command centers Sunday, and operations and maintenance personnel in Luzon and the Visayas had been instructed to take all necessary precautions.
NGCP command centers are assigned to monitor grid conditions, assess damage, supervise rehabilitation and restoration works, and document all the activities.
As part of the contingency measures, all scheduled maintenance work on NGCP facilities will be suspended starting Sunday.