Prone to typhoons

Prone to typhoons

Photo courtesy by Gulf News

In previous decades, December would already be almost free of mean typhoons – if any, perhaps not enough to put a damper on preparations for the celebration of the birth of the Redeemer in predominantly Christian Philippines.

Not so this 2021, when the 15th typhoon – Rai (international name) or Odette (local name) – to hit the archipelago has caused death and destruction that puts December typhoon figures since 2000 rather bleached in comparison.

The death toll from Odette, admittedly the strongest to hit the Philippines this year is inching towards 400 on Tuesday as humanitarian agencies warned the true scale of destruction remains unknown, partly because rescue workers are unable to access some disaster-hit areas.

Odette has now claimed at least 375 lives since it ripped through the archipelago late last week, according to the Philippine National Police, with at least 515 people are injured and 56 still missing. The numbers may continue to rise.

While more deaths are expected to be confirmed, aid workers face the difficult task of reaching some regions that are cut off due to debris-filled and waterlogged roads, some with telephone and internet connections down.

Philippine Red Cross chairman Sen. Richard Gordon said Tuesday that five bridges in Palawan, where nearly one million live, had been destroyed by Odette, with homes being completely destroyed and urgent supplies of water, food, and medicines are being rushed to the area, with communities being completely cut off.

Odette made landfall Thursday on Siargao Island, a popular tourist and surfing destination in the Caraga region of northeast Mindanao. It had initially packed winds of up to 260 kilometers per hour — equivalent to a Category 5 storm.

Many preemptive evacuations and storm preparations began earlier in the week as the country began seeing heavy rain, but millions were still left vulnerable.

As Odette drilled westward, it ripped down homes, trees, and power cables in its path, bringing with it heavy rains, widespread flooding, and landslides, destroyed communities, and left thousands homeless.

In nearby Surigao City, one of the worst-hit areas, CNN reported survivors were seen pleading on the roads for food and water, surrounded by uprooted trees and electricity poles. Police were seen removing broken branches from the roads.

Let’s review how December stood up during typhoons in the past two decades:


–December 6–7, 2000: Tropical Depression Ulpiang flooded many regions in Visayas, causing landslides and killed 3 people.

–December 5–6, 2001: Tropical Storm Kajiki (Quedan) brought light to moderate rainfall over Visayas, killing two people and over 6,000 people displaced.

–December 27, 2003: Tropical Depression Zigzag made landfall over northeastern Mindanao, bringing light to heavy rainfall there.

— December 2, 2004: Typhoon Nanmadol (Yoyong) batters Luzon with strong winds and heavy rainfall. 70 people died from the typhoon.

–December 2, 2004: Typhoon Nanmadol (Yoyong) batters Luzon with strong winds and heavy rainfall. 70 people died from the typhoon.

–December 9–10, 2006: Typhoon Utor (Seniang) swept through much of Visayas. Only 38 people died from the typhoon.


–December 16–17, 2011: Tropical Storm Washi (Sendong) passed through the archipelago of Mindanao, killing 2,546 people in total, making it one of the deadliest storms to affect the Philippines.

–December 3–4, 2012: Typhoon Bopha (Pablo) becomes the strongest tropical cyclone on record to affect Mindanao. Extensive and widespread damage was reported in that archipelago and left a total of 1,901 people dead.

–December 26, 2012: Tropical Storm Wukong (Quinta) passes through Visayas bringing light rainfall.

December 6–8, 2014: Typhoon Hagupit (Ruby) impacts much of the Visayas archipelago and Bicol Region.

–December 28–30, 2014: Tropical Storm Jangmi (Seniang) affects much of Mindanao bringing heavy rainfall.

— December 14–15, 2015: Typhoon Melor (Nona) passes through the northern Visayas and Southern Luzon as a strong typhoon.

–December 18, 2015: Tropical Depression Onyok makes landfall over Davao Oriental, bringing minor damages.

–December 25, 2016: Typhoon Nock-ten (Nina) impacts the Bicol Region and Southern Luzon.

–December 15–17, 2017: Tropical Storm Kai-tak (Urduja) makes a few landslides over Visayas, bringing torrential rainfall and flash flooding, killing 83 people.

–December 21–22, 2017: Typhoon Tembin (Vinta) passes over Mindanao and Palawan. 266 people died from the storm

–December 29, 2018: Tropical Depression Usman affects Mindanao and Eastern Visayas with torrential rainfall and heavy flooding. The weak system killed 156 people dead, with 26 people missing.

–December 2–3, 2019: Typhoon Kammuri (Tisoy) passes through Visayas and the Bicol Region as a Category 4 typhoon. Heavy winds and flooding were reported throughout most of the country.

–December 24–25, 2019: Typhoon Phanfone (Ursula) passes through the Visayas archipelago as a Category 3 typhoon. The total fatalities of the said typhoon is 50 deaths (with 55 people missing, and over 300 injured) and the damages are at $67.2 million or roughly ₱3.44 billion.


–December 18–19, 2020: Tropical Depression Vicky caused flooding and several landslides over the southern Philippines. Only nine people were killed.

–Dec 16-19, 2021. Strong typhoon Rai (Odette) slams into Mindanao and the Visayas. Latest count on fatalities now stands at 375 while more than 500 are missing.

PH Prone to Typhoon

Why is the Philippines prone to typhoons? Its location makes it: just above the equator and faces the western Pacific, with little else to absorb the energy of storms before they hit land.

Storms are fueled by the warm, tropical waters, which produce roughly 20 typhoons each year.

The Philippines, which lies in the world’s most cyclone-prone region, is highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, including sea-level rise, increased frequency of extreme weather events, rising temperatures, and extreme rainfall.

Oceans and seas have a great influence on the weather of continental masses. A large portion of the solar energy reaching the sea surface is expended in the process of evaporation. The water evaporated from the sea/ocean is carried up into the atmosphere and condenses, forming clouds from which all forms of precipitation result. Sometimes, intense cyclonic circulations occur which is what we call tropical cyclones.

Tropical cyclones are warm-core low-pressure systems associated with a spiral inflow of mass at the bottom level and spiral outflow at the top level.

They always form over oceans where sea surface temperature, also air temperatures are greater than 26°C.

The air accumulates large amounts of sensible and latent heat as it spirals towards the center. It receives this heat from the sea and the exchange can occur rapidly, because of the large amount of spray thrown into the air by the wind.


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