(UPDATE 4) 'Pepeng' nears supertyphoon status

Posted at 10/01/09 11:54 AM

Signal No. 1 hoisted over 6 provinces

Latest DOST-PAGASA MTSAT-EIR Satellite Image (timestamp on image is UTC; add 8 hours to convert to Philippine Standard Time)

MANILA - Weather bureau PAGASA on Thursday said typhoon Pepeng (international codename Parma) is forecast to bring more rains and very strong winds in Northern Luzon including Metro Manila once it makes landfall Saturday afternoon.

In a press conference Thursday afternoon, PAGASA said Pepeng has intensified further, now packing winds of 195 kilometers per hour near the center, and gusts of up to 230 kph.

As of 5 p.m., PAGASA weather branch chief Nathaniel Cruz said the typhoon was sighted 440 km east of Catarman, Northern Samar and is moving 24 kilometers per hour in the general direction of Northern Luzon and the Taiwan area.

Typhoon Pepeng (Parma): Forecasts

Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services (PAGASA): Tropical Cyclone Update

Manila Observatory

Japan Meteorological Agency

Taiwan Central Weather Bureau

Hong Kong Observatory

World Meteorolgical Organization (WMO) Severe Weather information Centre

US Navy: Joint Typhoon Warning Center

US NOAA Satellite and Information Service (Satellite Image Loop)

The typhoon is expected to be 100 km northeast of Virac, Catanduanes or 300 km southeast of Baler, Aurora by Friday afternoon.

Cruz said the typhoon is forecast to make landfall over Aurora-Isabela by Saturday morning or afternoon. He said the typhoon will bring occasional rains over the eastern section of Luzon and Visayas and more frequent rains in Samar and Bicol Thursday afternoon.

Gale-force winds are also forecast over Visayas and Mindanao.

Storm Signal no.1 has been hoisted in Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Catanduanes, Albay, Quezon (including the Polilio Islands), and Aurora.

"Residents in low-lying areas and near mountain slopes under signal #1 are advised to take all the necessary precautionary measures against possible flashfloods and landslides," the PAGASA weather bulletin stated.

"The public and the disaster coordinating councils concerned are advised to take appropriate actions and watch for the next bulletin to be issued at 11 P.M. today (Thursday)," it added.

Stronger than Ondoy, similar to Reming

Cruz, in an earlier press conference, said Pepeng is much stronger than last Saturday's tropical storm Ondoy (international codename Ketsana), which brought record amounts of rainfall and triggered the worst flooding in Metro Manila in 40 years.

"In terms of wind intensity, Ondoy was only half of the strength of Pepeng. When it made landfall, Ondoy only had winds of 85 kph while Pepeng is 175 kph. However, we cannot really compare the two because it was the rain that was really destructive about Ondoy," he said.

He added: "Our major concern with Pepeng is the disastrous winds - 175 kph to 210 kph. We expect typhoon Pepeng to intensify further as it moves towards northern Luzon."

He said the weather bureau will give a forecast on the typhoon's estimated rainfall intensity before it makes landfall.

Cruz also likened typhoon Pepeng to super-typhoon Reming (international codename Durian), which killed at least 734 people in the country in 2006.

"This could be like Reming. We are not just talking here about Metro Manila. We are talking of the entire Luzon area where there is probability of devastation in terms of flooding...and wind," he said.

Dams to release water

Dr. Susan Espinueva, assistant weather services chief of the Hydro Metrological Division of PAGASA, said major dams in Northern Luzon have been releasing water before Pepeng hits.

"All major dams in Northen Luzon wll be releasing water to lower the water level so that when the storm hits, there will be a buffer of storage capacity in our dams and the spillover will not be as severe,' she said.

Among the dams that have released water are the Angat Dam in Norzagaray, Bulacan; Binga Dam in Itogon, Benguet Province; Ambuklao Dam in Bokod, Benguet; Magat Dam in Ramon, Isabela province; and Pantabangan Dam in Nueva Ecija.

Espinueva said Angat Dam started releasing water since 10 a.m. Tuesday to lower the water level from 214 to 212 meters. She said maximum outflow of 500 cubic meters per second was released from the dam.

She said that as of 3 p.m. Friday, the Caliraya Dam in Lumban, Laguna also started releasing water. "Water coming from the dam will affect the towns of Lumban and Pagsanjan," she said.

The government has started preparing more evacuation centers as it anticipates more people to be displaced by the new storm.

Disaster officials fear more rains spawned by the typhoon could trigger another massive flood as streets and drainage systems remain clogged from the tons of debris left by the previous deluge caused by tropical storm Ondoy (international codename Ketsana).

As of 6 a.m., the National Disaster Coordinating Council said more than half a million families of 2.50 million individuals have been affected by Ondoy in 11 regions, including Metro Manila and the Calabarzon area in southern Luzon.

It said that a total of 686,699 people are now staying in 726 evacuation centers. It said Ondoy’s death toll has reached 277 and 42 were still missing.

The storm, which also devastated Vietnam and Cambodia, damaged crops and infrastructure worth at least P4.80 billion.

Coast Guard limits sea travel

Coast Guard commandant Vice-Adm. Wilfredo Tamayo said he has placed all Coast Guard units in affected areas of the new storm on heightened alert.

He said all sea vessels below 1,000 gross tonnage have been barred from sailing in Catanduanes, Camarines Sur and Camarines Norte as of Thursday morning.

"If Storm Signal no. 2 is hoisted, no vessel will be permitted to sail. We are warning fishing bats and smaller vessels not to venture out to sea. Maritime travelers going to the affected areas are advised to delay their trips," he said. . With a report from the Agence France-Presse