Typhoon Hagupit (Ruby) Update

(SOURCE) Typhoon Hagupit has gained strength again as it closes in on a Philippines landfall this weekend, according to the latest update from the U.S. military’s Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC). Preparations are underway for potentially life-threatening winds, storm surge and flash floods in the Philippines, where the typhoon has been named Ruby.

For days, major disagreements between American and European computer forecast models had created major questions about whether Hagupit would even make it to the Philippines. However, on Thursday, the models began to converge on an ominous forecast track that could take Hagupit on a slow, agonizing path across the heart of the island nation. Among the areas at risk is Tacloban, a city devastated by Super Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) just 13 months ago.

On Wednesday night U.S. East Coast time, JTWC estimated Hagupit’s maximum sustained 1-minute wind speed at 180 mph, putting it in a tie with Super Typhoons Vongfong and Nuri in October as the most powerful typhoon of 2014.

As of 9 a.m. EST Friday, JTWC raised its estimate of Hagupit’s top winds to 150 mph, making it once again a “super” typhoon, the equivalent of a Category 4 hurricane.

However, at 10 p.m. EST Friday, JTWC reduced its estimate of the typhoons top winds to 140 mph, which means the typhoon is just under the “super” criteria. It remains the equivalent of a major Category 4 hurricane.

The Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) earlier declared Hagupit a “violent” typhoon, the highest classification on its scale, with 10-minute sustained winds of 130 mph and gusts to 190 mph. That ties Vongfong for the highest wind speeds of 2014 in JMA’s bulletins. Hagupit has since been downgraded to a “very strong” typhoon on JMA’s scale with winds of 115 mph and gusts to 160 mph as of 4 a.m. EST Friday.

Hagupit moved into the waters east of the Philippines early Thursday local time, prompting that country’s weather agency (PAGASA) to give it the name Ruby. The Philippines has its own alphabetical list of names, separate from the international list, for tropical cyclones passing near or over its territory.

Forecast: Increasing Danger for Philippines

Hagupit Forecast Path

Hagupit Forecast Path

PAGASA has issued public storm warning signals for 36 geographic areas, spanning from southeastern portions of Luzon (the main northern island) through the Visayas (central Philippines) and northeastern parts of Mindanao (the main southern island).

The island of Samar in the Visayas nearest the initial arrival of the landfall was raised to Public Storm Warning Signal No. 3, meaning winds of 100-185 kph (62 to 115 mph) are expected “in at least 18 hours.”

PAGASA also placed a large part of this region in Public Storm Warning Signal No. 2, meaning 61 to 100 kph (38 to 62 mph) are possible “in at least 24 hours.” Metro Cebu, the second-largest metropolitan area in the country after Metro Manila, is included in Public Storm Warning Signal No. 2.

First, the typhoon is expected to approach the eastern shores of the central Philippines (Eastern Visayas Region) on Saturday evening local time (Saturday morning U.S. time). 

While it still remains a bit uncertain whether the center of Hagupit will technically “make landfall”, the most intense eyewall winds will arrive in Samar Island (particularly northern and eastern parts of the island), and perhaps also affecting northern Leyte Island (including Tacloban City) Saturday evening, continuing into Sunday, local time.

During this initial period of contact with land, Hagupit will likely unleash its most powerful winds. It should be at least a Category 4 equivalent tropical cyclone by that time, but may possibly be a Category 5 storm.

In areas where the wind blows onshore, dangerous storm surge is likely. Philippine officials have issued storm surge advisories for a number of communities at risk. Some communities on the islands of Samar and Leyte are at risk of storm surge up to 4 meters (13 feet) according to the alerts, equivalent to the height of a one-story home.

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