Super Typhoon Hagupit to hit Philippines

One of the most powerful storms of 2014 is bearing down on the country bringing the threat of damaging winds and floods.

Supermarket shelves are cleared as residents of Tacloban stock up ahead of Hagupit's arrival [AFP]

The Philippines are preparing for the arrival of what could be the strongest typhoon of 2014.

Super Typhoon Hagupit is expected to strike the country at the weekend as the equivalent of a Category 2 or 3 hurricane on the five point Saffir-Simpson scale with sustained winds close to 200kph.

Hugupit is currently intensifying. Peak winds on Friday, when the typhoon is still over open water, are expected to reach 315kph with gusts of 380kph. Thunderstorms are rising to nearly 16km into the atmosphere and rainfall rates are an astonishing 138mm per hour.

The threat posed by Hagupit has caused great concern across the country, as it comes just over one year since Super Typhoon Haiyan.

Haiyan will live long in the memory for many Filipinos as it was the strongest storm ever to hit the country with sustained winds just before landfall of 315kph. It was also the deadliest storm to hit the Philippines; 6,300 people lost their lives as a result of damaging winds and a massive storm surge which peaked at over 6 metres in the port city of Tacloban on the central island of Leyte.

There is great concern for the residents of the area as at least 3,500 families are still living in tents and temporary structures. Authorities have already evacuated 10 to 15,000 people from their homes.

There is still considerable doubt as to the exact track Hagupit will take. The US Joint Typhoon Warning Center favours a track which takes Haugpit northwards towards central Luzon as a Category 4 or 5 system.

Most other computer predictions, including the usually reliable European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts, track Hagupit on a more westerly track with landfall on Samar island during Saturday.

If, as seems likely, but by no means certain, the storm follows this trajectory, it will move across slightly cooler waters. This, coupled with less favourable winds higher in the atmosphere, should see Hagupit weaken to the equivalent of a Category 2 to 3 hurricane with sustained winds of 180 to 200kph.

These winds will bring huge waves but storm surge predictions are currently less than one metre.

It may well be that the greatest threat to life and property comes not from the winds or the waves, but from the rainfall. Between 300 and 600mm of rain could fall in a matter of hours. This will pose a high risk of flooding and mudslides.

Source: Al Jazeera