SUPER TYPHOON MEGI (MEANS “CATFISH” IN KOREAN) STRIKES THE PHILIPPINES THEN HEADS TOWARDS TAIWAN AND CHINAOCTOBER 22 Walter Hays, Global Alliance for Disaster Reduction, University of North Carolina, USA
Megi, known locally as Juan, was a category 5 super typhoon, the highest rating, with winds of more than 250 kph and a diameter of over 600 km when it made landfall at Sierra Madre’s Estagno Point in Isabela at 11:25 a.m. on Monday.
Megi was a low pressure storm that was larger and stronger than Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans in 2005.
About 20 typhoons and tropical storms hit the Philippines each year, giving it the reputation as “the welcome mat” for the most destructive cyclones forming in the Pacific.
Megi, the 10th and strongest typhoon to hit the Philippines this year, reached Isabela province on Monday morning (local time) , October 18th, and by early evening was heading west-southwest across the north of the main island of Luzon with winds of 180 kph .
Megi tore roofs off houses, destroyed rice crops, toppled trees, ripped down power lines, triggered landslides in the mountains and whipped up huge waves. .
On Tuesday (Oct 19th), in the Philippines, 7,000 people were sheltered in evacuation centers to avoid problems associated with the heavy rain fall; this number later swelled to 11,600. .
Typhoon Megi affected more than 300,000 people, leaving an estimated 200,000 homeless..
Weather forecasters say that Megi produced 50 millimeters per hour of rain - similar to that produced in 2009 by Tropical Cyclones Ketsana and Parma when they struck the northern Philippines in 2009, causing massive devastation and over 1,000 deaths. .
Initial estimates indicate that Megi’s damage to infrastructure, agriculture, fisheries and schools in the Philippines reached 1.4 billion Philippine pesos ($32 million). .
Loss of communications made it impossible at first to estimate casualties, but data later indicated that loss of life was only about twenty-two people. .
The apparent low death toll appears to have been the result of the Philippines Government's timely preparations for the storm. .
The forecast was for Typhoon Megi to move to Taiwan and then towards the southern coast of China and Hong Kong, where rainfall since Sept. 30th had already caused authorities to evacuate 140,000 from Hainan Island.
BUT… the Philippines Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) was concerned that two high pressure ridges might cause Typhoon Megi to stall or even to make a U- turn and return to the Philippines.
While China evacuated 160,000 people and called in fishing boats before the expected onslaught of Megi on Friday (Oct 22nd), the storm brought heavy rainfall to Taiwan on Thursday (Oct 21st), which led to severe flooding and rock falls.
Although a little later arriving than initially forecast, Megi made landfall in Zhangzhou City in the southeastern Chinese province of Fujian at 12:55 p.m. Saturday, October 23, 2010
The storm is expected to move northward at 10 km per hour as it weakens and to dump an additional 100 mm or more of rain during the next 12 hours in addition to the 200-300 mm or more that has already fallen in a broad area.
As a result of preparations in Fujian, Guangdong and Zhejiang provinces, no major casualties were reported after landfall.
Nevertheless, more than 647,900 people and 26,190 hectares of crops were affected by the typhoon, which flattened 500 houses, forced 313,200 people to evacuate their homes, and caused losses estimated at $238 million.