Pepeng threatens Bicol, north Luzon

Posted at 10/02/2009 5:54 PM | Updated as of 10/02/2009 5:59 PM

MANILA - The weather bureau on Friday afternoon raised Storm Signal No. 3 over Catanduanes province as typhoon Pepeng (international codename Parma) entered Bicol region.

The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services (PAGASA) said the typhoon was 150 kilometers north northeast of Virac town, Catanduanes, packing maximum sustained winds of 195 kilometers per hour (kph) and gusts of up to 230 kph.

In a briefing at around 5:30 pm, PAGASA said the typhoon has significantly slowed down and was moving west northwest at 13 kph from earlier's reading of 19 kph, which was the reason why Catanduanes was placed under Signal No. 3.

PAGASA chief Prisco Nilo said the change in Pepeng's phase was caused by a developing high pressure area near Hong Kong. He said the change may worsen the effects of the typhoon as well as its course.

"In this case, Catanduanes will be exposed in a longer period to the typhoon," he said.

He added that if Pepeng maintains its speed, coastal villages in the province might be in danger of being swept by strong storm surges, which is similar to a tsunami.

Nilo said the typhoon was still heading towards the Isabela-Aurora area and may make landfall by Saturday afternoon. He said the typhoon may still change course and cross Central Luzon, instead of northern Luzon.

He said if this happens, Metro Manila will experience heavy rains induced by an active southwest monsoon. If the typhoon travels over northern Luzon, the southwest monsoon will be missed, sparing the capital region from heavy rains.

Storm signals up

Nilo said Metro Manila has been placed under Storm Signal No. 1 along with Northern Samar, Calayan Group of Islands, Babuyan Group of Islands, Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, Apayao, Abra, Kalinga, Mt. Province, Ifugao, Nueva Viscaya, Benguet, La Union, Pangasinan, Tarlac, Nueva Ecija, Zambales, Bataan, Pampanga, Bulacan, Laguna, Batangas, Cavite, Rizal, Quezon, Marinduque, Albay, Burias Islands and Sorsogon.

The National Capital Region was hardest hit by tropical storm Ondoy in terms of fatalities and the number of people displaced by floods. Ondoy's death toll has been pegged by the government at 293, with more than 100 recorded in Mero Manila.

Signal No. 2 was hoisted over Isabela, Aurora, Quirino, northern Quezon, Polilio Islands, Camarines Norte and Camarines Sur.

The weather bureau said the typhoon's strong winds and heavy rains will be felt in Cagayan, Isabela, Aurora, Quezon and Bicol until Saturday morning while occasional rains will prevail over the rest of Luzon and Visayas.