If last year it was the East Coast’s turn to suffer a freak super storm, this year it is the already battered Philippines, which suffered a 7.2 magnitude earthquake last month, turn as Super Typhoon Haiyan, the equivalent of a Category 5 hurricane, slammed into the Philippines today after forcing thousands of people to evacuate. With sustained winds of 315 kph (195 mph) and gusts as strong as 380 kph (235 mph), Haiyan was probably the strongest tropical cyclone to hit land anywhere in the world in recorded history. “If it maintains its strength, there has never been a storm this strong making landfall anywhere in the world,” said Jeff Masters, founder of Weather Underground in Ann Arbor, Michigan. “This is off the charts.” Not taking chances, the local government has ordered over 125,000 people from 22 provinces to evacuate.
But while luckily human lives will be saved, little else may be. As Bloomberg reports, “Haiyan may inundate rivers, create mudflows and cause storm surges as high as 6 meters (20 feet), Aquino said. Three air force cargo planes, 2 navy ships, helicopters and relief boats are on standby, the president said. About 78,000 families were evacuated in Albay province, Governor Joey Salceda said on his Facebook account. Masters said Tacloban, the capital of the Philippine province of Leyte, would take a direct hit and winds of at least 130 mph may sweep as far as 100 miles inland. “There isn’t much built on the Philippines that can withstand winds like that,” Masters said.
Moments ago Bloomberg just blasted that up to half of the island chain’s sugar cane may be destroyed as a result of the Typhoon, which will wreak havoc on logistic and supply chains globally across numerous commodities. However, it is the human damange that is the biggest threat.
Heavy rains from storms usually cause the highest death tolls on the Philippines, Masters said. Flooding may not be the worst threat this time because Haiyan is moving fairly fast. The high winds and storm surge have the potential to cause catastrophic damage, he said.
“We’re swamped with calls for help,” Southern Leyte Governor Roger Mercado said in an interview over DZMM radio. Strong wings uprooted trees in the province, he said.
About 2,000 passengers, 50 vessels and 557 rolling cargoes are now stranded in various seaports, the disaster agency said today. Cebu Air Inc. (CEB), the nation’s largest budget carrier, canceled 122 domestic flights and 4 international flights from today to Nov. 9, it said yesterday. Philippine Airlines Inc., in its Facebook account, said 26 local flights and three international flights have been canceled today.
Putting the size of the storm in perspective: “Haiyan was so large in diameter that at one point, its clouds were affecting two-thirds of the country, which stretches more than 1,850 kilometers (1,150 miles). Tropical-storm-force winds extended 240 kilometers from the typhoon’s center.
The wide angle shot below by EUMETSAT shows just how massive the typhoon truly is:
In short a record superstorm:
The true power of Haiyan isn’t known because reconnaissance planes haven’t flown into it, Masters said. The strongest tropical cyclone on record was Super Typhoon Nancy in 1961 with top winds of 215 mph. He said many believe the estimated wind speeds of storms between the 1940s to 1960s was too high.
Since 1969, only three storms have been as powerful as Haiyan, Masters wrote on his blog. They were Super Typhoon Tip in 1979 in the Pacific and Atlantic hurricanes Camille in 1969 and Allen in 1980.
The strongest storm to hit land was Camille, which went ashore in Mississippi with winds near 195 mph, Master said. While there are some estimates that Camille’s winds were closer to 200 mph, the exact speed is unknown because the instruments were destroyed, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center.
This is just the beginning. After it is done with the Philippines, Haiyan is expected to strike Vietnam in several days, according to the Japanese Meteorological Agency. “It is going to be a huge problem for Vietnam and Laos,”Masters said. As much as a foot of rain may fall there, he said.
If there is a silver lining to all the imminent destruction and tragedy, it is that Q4 GDP in the region will be off the charts. Just as Krugman.