Understanding hurricanes and typhoons
Known as one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world. the philippine is at risk for almost all types of natural hazards. while earthquakes and volcanic eruptions remain constant threats, typhoons leave the most damage each year.
In other parts of the world, weather disturbances are also frequent with the terms cyclones, hurricanes and typhoons cropping up. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) of America, though all three may refer to the same weather phenomenon, there’s a need to use different terms depending on where these hazards take place. In the Atlantic and Northeast Pacific, the term “hurricane” is used. The same type of disturbance in the Northwest Pacific is called a “typhoon”, while “cyclones” occur in the South Pacific and Indian Ocean.
To be classified as a hurricane, a tropical cyclone must have maximum sustained winds of at least 74 miles per hour (mph).
• Category 1 – winds range from 74 to 95 mph. Falling debris could strike people, livestock and pets, and older mobile homes could be destroyed.
• Category 2 – winds range between 96 and 110 mph. There is a bigger risk of injury or death to people, livestock and pets from flying debris.
• Category 3 – winds range from 111 to 129 mph. There is a high risk of injury or death to people, livestock and pets from flying and falling debris.
• Category 4 – winds range from 130 to 156 mph. At these speeds, falling and flying debris poses a very high risk of injury or death to people, pets and livestock.
• Category 5 – winds of 157 mph or higher. People, livestock and pets can be in danger from flying debris, even indoors. Most mobile homes, as well as a high percentage of frame homes, will be destroyed. Commercial buildings with wooden roofs will experience severe damage. Metal buildings may collapse and high-rise windows will nearly be blown out.
On April 9 to 13, 2018 the World Meteorological Organization’s Hurricane Committee met to review the devastating 2017 Atlantic hurricane season, and discuss regional coordination and operational planning to better prepare for future hurricanes. With the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season as one of the most destructive on record, damage costs exceeded 250 billion dollars in the United States alone, while recovery for the worst- hit Caribbean Islands, particularly the island republic of Dominica, may take years. Several hundred people died, and the lives of millions were affected.
In the United States, three exceptionally destructive hurricanes occurred in late August and September:
• Harvey (Category 4)
– dumped 60 inches of rain in Southeastern Texas in August
– damaged USD 125 billion worth of properties
– left 68 dead, the largest number of direct death in the state since 1919
• Irma (Category 5)
– swept through Caribbean Islands in September
– Dominica’s total damages and losses from the hurricane at USD 1.3 billion or 224% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
– left 134 casualties
• Maria (Category 4)
– devastated Puerto Rico in September
– the strongest and most destructive storm to hit the island since 1928
– damaged USD 90 billion worth of properties in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands
– left 97 fatalities in Puerto Rico alone
The strongest typhoon to ever hit the Philippines, according to written records, was Typhoon Yolanda. In 2013, the typhoon ravaged Visayas and Palawan devastating 6,300 lives, displacing more than four million residents, and affecting 14 million people.
Last year, three out of 16 tropical cyclones left the most destruction. These include Severe Tropical Storm Odette that displaced 4,720 people, left one casualty and caused Php 4.4 million damage to property. In December, Typhoon Vinta and Tropical Storm Urduja hit the country. The former displaced 871 thousand persons and left 44 casualties, while the latter affected 1.8 million people and left 47 casualties.
This year, as more hurricanes and typhoons are expected, both local and international names have been assigned to them for easier dissemination of information.
In preparation, PAGASA continues to improve the use of impact-based forecasting. This year, the bureau plans to include wind-related effects of tropical cyclones in the effects of floods and storm surges. The proposed development will help responding agencies, such as the Department of Social Welfare and Development, better respond to the needs of people residing along a weather disturbance’s track.
Hurricanes, typhoons and cyclones—though the same weather disturbance go by different names, preparation should be something that all regions should have in common.