Typhoon Rai strengthens rapidly as it approaches the Philippines

Rai currently has sustained winds of 215 km / h (130 mph), making it the equivalent of a Category 4 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson wind scale.

Favorable conditions across the region, including very warm ocean waters and weak windshear, have led to the storm strengthening from a tropical storm to a potentially catastrophic high-end typhoon in the past 24 hours. .

Further reinforcement is expected, and the current forecast from the Joint Typhoon Warning Center is that Rai will hit 160 mph (260 km / h) upon landing. This would make Rai the equivalent of a Category 5 hurricane or super typhoon.

In the Philippines, the storm is known as Odette and is monitored locally by the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA).

The outer bands of the storm are already spreading rain in southern and central parts of the country and conditions will deteriorate rapidly in the coming hours.

It is already Thursday in the Philippines, and from Thursday morning to Friday morning the rains are expected to be “heavy to intense and at times torrential,” PAGASA said in its forecast early Thursday morning.

More than 250 mm (10 inches) of rain will fall over parts of Mindanao and the Visayas. The heavy rains are expected to cause widespread flooding, flash floods and landslides on higher ground.

PAGASA has already issued Tropical Cyclone 3 warning signal for high winds in southern parts of the Visayas and northern Mindanao. As the storm nears mainland Thursday afternoon locally, PAGASA may increase the warning signal to 4 or even 5 – their chart’s top.

In addition to strong winds, flooding and landslides, coastal regions will be on alert for three to four meters of storm surge and shipping vessels will face extremely rough seas over the next few days.

December storms are not uncommon

In the Western Pacific, there is no defined “season” for tropical systems as is the case in other basins such as the North Atlantic (June 1 to November 30). While activity peaks in late summer through early fall, storms can occur any month of the year.

The Philippines was no stranger to the catastrophic storms of December. Over the past decade, numerous intense and deadly storms have hit the region.

In 2011, Tropical Storm Washi killed more than 1,000 people in the southern Philippines and never reached typhoon status. The storm was relatively weak, but dumped massive amounts of precipitation, resulting in sudden flooding and devastating landslides overnight while people slept.
A year later, in December 2012, Bopha also struck the region of Mindanao in the southern Philippines. Bopha was much stronger than Washi, hitting the area like a super typhoon and killing over 1,000 people.
The Philippines was also hit by powerful and deadly typhoons in December 2014 (Hagupit) and 2016, when Typhoon Nockten struck on Christmas Day.
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