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‘Ompong’ closes in on Luzon





TYPHOON Ompong (Image lifted from PAGASA)

THE most powerful typhoon of the season is closing in on North­ern Luzon, where officials or­dered precautionary evacuations and closures of schools and of­fices and urged farmers to quick­ly harvest their crops to reduce damage.

Forecasters said typhoon “Ompong” (international name “Mangkhut”), considered as the strongest this year, could hit Ca­gayan tomorrow.

In its 11 a.m. weather bulletin, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geo­physical, and Astronomical Services Administration spotted Ompong 725 kilometers east of Virac, Cat­anduanes, moving slower westward at 20 kilometers per hour with maximum sustained winds of 205 kilometers per hour near the center and gustiness of up to 255 kph.

PAGASA said the effects of Om­pong are expected to be felt start­ing today until the weekend. It said provinces in the eastern section of Northern Luzon, including Isabela and Cagayan, will gradually experi­ence moderate to heavy rains from 60 to 360 millimeters.

The typhoon will bring heavy to intense rains over the entire Northern Luzon before its expect­ed landfall in the northern area of Cagayan tomorrow. It could maintain the strength of a super typhoon when it hits land.

Residents in Guam woke up Tuesday to flooded streets, downed trees, and widespread power outages after Mangkhut passed through overnight.

The Pacific Daily News reported government agencies were con­ducting damage assessments and beginning to clear roads. About 80 percent of the US territory was without power but it was restored by yesterday morning.

With a massive rain band of 900 kilometers wide, combined with seasonal monsoon rains, the storm could bring heavy to intense rains that could set off landslides and flash floods, PA­GASA forecaster Meno Mendoza said.

PAGASA Assistant Weather Ser­vices chief Dr. Rene Paciente said that the intensity of Ompong may have reached peak but added there is still a possibility that the typhoon will further strengthen before hitting land.

“Sa ngayon parang lumiit na yung chance na maging super ty­phoon ito, pero hindi natin iniru­rule out na may kaunting chance ito na maging super typhoon. Po­sibleng ito na yung peak niya pero wag magpapapa-kampate kasi bagyo pa rin ito at malakas pa rin ito bago mag-landfall, destructive pa rin ito,” he explained.

Paciente compared Ompong to typhoon “Lawin” (international name “Haima”) that lashed the country in 2016 as the two weath­er disturbances have similarities in their track and strength. However, he added that Ompong’s rainfall may be intense than Lawin or also than typhoon “Ondoy” (interna­tional name “Ketsana”) that sub­merged Metro Manila in 2009.

Department of Science and Technology Undersecretary for Disaster Risk Reduction and Cli­mate Change Dr. Renato Solidum Jr. said that Ondoy is much slower than Ompong which is why its rainfall is only concentrated in a smaller part of Luzon.

Cagayan Gov. Manuel Mamba said that northern coastal and is­land villages in the typhoon’s pro­jected path will begin evacuating residents ahead of the expected onslaught. He said classes will be suspended and offices, except those involved in rescue and re­lief work, advised to close today.

PAGASA raised tropical cy­clone warning signal No. 1 over Batanes, Cagayan, including Babuyan Group of Islands, Apa­yao, Abra, Kalinga, Mountain Province, Ifugao, Isabela, Ben­guet, Quirino, Nueva Vizcaya, Aurora, Nueva Ecija, Bulacan, Rizal, Laguna, Quezon, including Polillo Island, Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Catanduanes, Al­bay, Sorsogon, Northern Samar, Burias Island, and Ticao Island as Ompong approached.

Lawin lashed the southern section of Cagayan, destroy­ing thousands of houses. Mang­khut is blowing from the Pacific and forecast to directly slam the province’s northeastern coastal and island municipalities, Mamba said.

“I’m stressing that this one is very different, this is more com­plicated because of possible storm surges,” Mamba said, referring to giant waves whipped inland by a typhoon.

The typhoon is arriving at the start of the rice and corn harvest season in Cagayan, a major ag­ricultural producer, and farmers were scrambling to save what they could of their crops, Mamba said. The Philippines has been try­ing to cope with rice shortages.

A missile test aboard a Navy ship to be attended by President Duterte off Bataan was canceled due to the approaching typhoon.

After leaving the Philippines, the fast-moving storm is expected to blow towards Hong Kong and southern China Sunday if it main­tains its course, forecasters said.

Ompong is the 15th storm this year to batter the Philip­pines, which is hit by about 20 a year and is considered one of the world’s most disaster-prone countries. Typhoon “Yolanda” left more than 7,300 people dead or missing and displaced over five million in the Visayas in 2013.