MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) – Weather disturbance "Megi" (local codename: Juan) could bring the same amount of rain as Ondoy, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said on Friday.
In a press conference, PAGASA chief Graciano Yumul said the storm has intensified into a typhoon with maximum winds of 120 kilometers per hour and gusts of 150 kph. It is moving west northwest at 20 kph.
“If it enters the Philippine area of responsibility, it would be a typhoon category. Ondoy is a tropical storm category. Ondoy would actually be of a lesser strength. However, if you start looking at the amount of rainfall that Juan is going to bring, satellite imagery shows that the amount of rain it’s bringing is basically similar to what Ondoy had dropped in Metro Manila,” Yumul said in a press briefing.
Ondoy dumped one month's volume of rain in just a few hours on September 26, 2009, flooding large parts of Marikina, Pasig, Quezon City, Manila, Caloocan, Muntinlupa and surrounding cities. The storm killed 464 people, affected nearly 1 million families and left P11 billion worth of damage to infrastructure and agriculture.
Yumul said Megi is forecast to enter the Philippine area of responsibility early Saturday morning.
The storm has three possible tracks: it could make landfall in the Cagayan-Isabela area and pass Kalinga, Apayao and Abra before exiting near Ilocos Sur or Ilocos norte.
However, a monsoon trough in the northern part of the country could affect the typhoon's path and move it slightly in a north westward direction. In this scenario, the storm will not hit Luzon directly but will go straight to Japan, leaving only rainshowers in Cagayan and Isabela.
On the other hand, the storm could also shift northwest and enter Batanes, affecting Aparri and Abra before exiting via Pangasinan and Zambales. In this scenario, the storm will bring heavier rain to Metro Manila.
Yumul said PAGASA will have a clearer picture of the typhoon's track by Sunday.
'Megi' to get stronger
The PAGASA chief said he expects the typhoon to get stronger before it makes landfall in the Philippines.
"Ngayon pa lang malaki na siya. May mata na. Imagine it has 2 more days to travel above water kaya mas bibilis at lalakas pa yan," he said.
PAGASA said it came out with an early forecast to prepare the public especially those in Northern and Central Luzon.
“By Sunday afternoon, we will have more or less a firm idea in terms of the amount of rain, in terms of the speed and in terms of the areas affected,” Yumul said.
He said at least 240 evacuation centers are now on standby in National Capital Region in anticipation of bad weather.
President Benigno Aquino III on Friday said he has ordered all concerned agencies to prepare for the expected landfall of the typhoon this weekend. He also ordered the Metro Manila Development Authority to take down billboards in Metro Manila until the typhoon is over.
"Let us all work together to ensure zero casualties for the coming typhoon. I ask our countrymen in affected areas to cooperate with their barangay, municipal, provincial and national officials in ensuring orderly and efficient preparations are made," he said.
Benito Ramos of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) said government agencies are ready for possible preemptive evacuations in affected areas on Sunday.
On Friday, the weather bureau met with the Office of the Civil Defense and sent out warnings to fisherfolk along the eastern seaboard of northern Luzon. They also issued warnings to farmers who will soon be harvesting their crops.
“It's a recommendation, but if you start looking at the available MTSAT [Meteorological Satellite], right now, you can see that the wave height and winds are actually starting to get strong along the Philippine sea,” he said.
PAGASA advised the general public and local disaster risk reduction managers to prepare and take precautionary measures.
Fishermen were advised not to venture over the eastern and northern coasts of Luzon while farmers were advised to monitor weather updates
Travelers were advised not to travel starting on Sunday morning, particularly in landslide prone areas of northern and eastern Luzon.