Surrounded by bodies of water, the Philippines sits astride the typhoon belt. Each year, an average of 19 to 20 tropical cyclones or bagyo enters the Philippine Area of Responsibility (PAR), with 8 to 9 of these crossing the landmass.
In 2014, 19 tropical cyclones were recorded to have entered PAR. Two of them were experienced before the year ended, making their respective landfalls in the Visayas and Mindanao areas.
Since its development from a low pressure area on the last day of November, major weather agencies across the globe closely monitored the potentially dangerous typhoon, later given the international name Hagupit.
Filipinos were alerted against the threat of the approaching cyclone as early as December 2, even if Hagupit was still too far to affect the country.
Entering PAR on December 4, the cyclone was locally named Ruby. Two possible scenarios were presented: for it to 1) make landfall and 2) recurve. Despite hoping for the latter, Ruby crossed the archipelago, hitting the land five times before exiting PAR by the evening of December 10.
During its course on land, Ruby left 18 dead and 916 injured. Over 5 billion pesos in damages to agriculture and infrastructure were also reported.
With the catastrophe endured by Filipinos in November 2013 caused by bagyong Yolanda, the Philippines may have learned its lesson. A lot of it, it seems, were applied during the preparations for Ruby.
No less than President Benigno Aquino III ensured that each agency’s preparations were already in place before Ruby’s arrival. This included quizzing his cabinet secretaries on their efforts in preparation for Ruby, to avoid a repeat of the Yolanda situation. A meeting in Camp Aguinaldo was held to mitigate the impact of Ruby in the following days.
Agencies also layman-ized the terms and phrases used in order to make sure everyone understood and acted accordingly. Continuous dissemination of weather bulletins, the initiation of pre-emptive evacuation, and other precautionary measures were undertaken as early as December 2 when the typhoon was still outside the PAR.
Right after Christmas up until New Year’s, PAGASA weather forecasters dutifully monitored the last tropical cyclone of the year— Seniang.
Dumping heavy rains that caused widespread flooding and landslides, among others, Seniang made landfall four times before leaving the PAR on the 2nd of January.
Aside from the 65 deaths, 41 injuries and 7 missing persons, Seniang also caused damages of more than 758 million pesos as of press time.
With the death toll significantly higher compared to Ruby, criticisms were thrown at the government for “falling short in its preparations” for the onslaught of bagyong Seniang. However, Malacañang refuted these claims saying that the government’s preparations and response were comprehensive. Citing the latest report from the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Sonny Coloma stated that many of the casualties came from isolated cases of landslide and flashflood incidents, in areas that were not “designated as danger zones.”
A weather disturbance often takes a few days before it develops into something massive. State meteorologists monitor this through weather satellites, enabling them to alert the public and give them ample time to prepare before a bagyo strikes.
Over the years, the Filipinos have endured the countless devastating effects of cyclones with rising death tolls and damages headlining the news. Though we can’t stop a cyclone from forming, we can minimize its disastrous impact. By focusing on disaster mitigation and preparedness, we help curb the overwhelming consequences of a calamity.
Arm yourself with some weather wisdom.
What is a thunderstorm? A low pressure area? The most dangerous part of a bagyo? (The eye wall, fyi.) Knowing these relevant weather terms help us understand forecasts better, which help us prepare for the coming weather disturbances.
Monitor weather updates.
Nowadays, information comes easily through various platforms—the television, radio, and the Internet. With real-time updates and lead-time forecasts, disaster preparedness is within our reach.
Have an emergency kit.
We can’t stress this enough. Emergency kits save lives. Prepare emergency kits ahead of time and store them in accessible areas so you can easily find them when the need arises.
Make emergency plans with your family.
When disaster strikes, family members may get separated. Make sure the whole family is prepared and informed on crucial information, such as emergency exits, meet-up points, and ways to contact each other. In line with this, it’s also important to know the emergency hotlines in your area.
Identify the threats on your property.
Is your area prone to flooding? Can a storm surge reach your house? Is your area mountainous and prone to landslides? If you are living in a hazard-prone area, evacuate as early as possible. Otherwise, stay inside the house and keep calm.
Store enough food and water.
The movements of tropical cyclones are not definite. Some move speedily; others start fast then slow down later on. Business operations may take time to resume after a disaster so better make sure your supplies will last for a few days.
Heed the advice of local authorities.
If you’re asked to evacuate, do so and be sure to follow instructions. Before leaving, turn off all utilities and secure your home. After the disaster has passed, return home only when officials have deemed it safe.
Are you ready for future disasters? Be informed, prepared, and safe! See below the names that will be used for tropical cyclones that will enter the PAR this 2015