We must be specially vigilant as ‘Ompong’ hits us

e-cartoon-sep-15-2018Typhoon “Ompong,” the country’s 15th  tropical cyclone this year, crossed  into the Philippine Area of Responsibility (PAR), some 1,000  kilometers away in the Pacific,   at 3 p.m. last Wednesday and has been slowly moving westward toward  Luzon.  Its winds  have been increasingly gaining strength  these last few days and it may hit  Northern Luzon in full force today.

As it entered PAR  last Wednesday, “Ompong” had peak winds of 220 kilometers per hour, gusting up to 270 kph. As it moved westward, its winds were  expected to  pick up strength and possibly cause storm surges in coastal areas of Cagayan and Isabela.

It was a storm surge seven meters high that hit Leyte and Samar and killed thousands of people when typhoon “Yolanda” struck in 2013. The  powerful winds also uprooted trees, knocked down electric posts,  and flattened houses.

The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) warned against a third source of danger with “Ompong” -- the “habagat” monsoon rains at this time of the year which are intensified by approaching storms. The heavy rains could cause landslides, turn rivers into raging  torrents of destruction, and flood wide areas of ripening rice.

By some strange coincidence, the East Coast of the United States is now also being menaced by equally powerful  Hurricane “Florence” which is moving from the South Atlantic northwestward towards the Carolinas and Virginia,  which have issued declarations of emergency.  On the other side of the US, tropical storm  “Olivia”  now threatens  Hawaii with storm surges and floods.

As typhoon  “Ompong” neared the Philippines, provincial, city, and municipal officials from Northern Luzon to the Bicol region  suspended classes, alerted hospitals and law enforcement agencies, mobilized emergency rescue   teams, and stocked up on food and other relief goods.  Around Mayon Volcano in Albay,  an alert was issued against lahar.

We are used to having  storms and typhoons throughout the year but “Ompong” is more powerful than most  and, with super-typhoon “Yolanda” in mind, the government has warned the general public to be specially vigilant, avoid danger areas like mountain slopes, river banks, and low-lying areas.

Let us all keep this warning in mind as “Ompong” lashes the country today.  The previous storms earlier this year all curved northwards and vented their fury on the northern lands of Japan, Korea, and China, while we just suffered from floods.  But “Ompong” is headed straight for us and we must be ready for its powerful winds and the storm surge that may come in raging from the sea.