By Ellalyn de Vera Ruiz
Tropical cyclone warning Signal No. 1 has been hoisted over 11 areas in Mindanao as tropical depression “Chedeng” inched closer to the country on Monday.
In a 5 p.m. update Monday, Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) weather specialist Benison Estareja said Davao Oriental, Compostela Valley, Davao del Sur, Davao City, Davao Occidental, General Santos City, southern part of Davao del Norte, Samal Island, and eastern portions of North Cotabato, South Cotabao, Sarangani and Sultan Kudarat were placed under Signal No. 1 as of Monday afternoon.
These areas will experience 30 kilometers per hour (kph) to 60 kph of winds and intermittent rains within 36 hours.
Estareja said scattered to at times widespread moderate to heavy rains will prevail over Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Surigao del Norte, Surigao del Sur, Dinagat Islands, Compostela Valley, Davao del Norte, Davao Oriental, and Davao del Sur starting Monday (March 18).
By Tuesday (March 19), he said scattered to at times widespread moderate to heavy rains may be experienced over portions of Davao Region, Soccsksargen, Bangsamoro, and Zamboanga Peninsula, when the tropical depression is expected to make landfall over Davao Oriental or Davao Occidental.
Estareja said Chedeng will traverse Davao Oriental, Davao del Sur, Soccsksargen, Zamboanga Sibugay, and Basilan on its way to the West Philippine Sea.
It may weaken into a low-pressure area while crossing Mindanao.
As of 5 p.m. Monday, Chedeng was at 285 kilometers east-southeast of Davao City, with maximum sustained winds of 45 kph and gustiness of up to 60 kph.
It is forecast to move west at 15 kph.
PAGASA advised the concerned disaster risk reduction and management offices and residents in Mindanao, especially those in areas identified to be at high risk of flooding or landslide to take necessary preparations and continue monitoring official updates.
Those with small seacraft were also advised not to venture out into the eastern coast of Visayas and Mindanao, as well as the coastlines of areas under Signal No. 1.
The occurrence of a tropical cyclone in March is not unusual based on the PAGASA’s historical record. It shows that at least one tropical cyclone could develop near the country’s coast or make landfall during this period.
Meanwhile, the northeasterly surface wind flow will bring partly cloudy to cloudy skies with isolated light rains over Batanes, Cagayan, and Isabela.
Metro Manila and the rest of the country may experience partly cloudy to cloudy skies with isolated rain showers. The public should be on alert for possible flash floods during severe thunderstorms.
According to PAGASA Deputy Administrator Landrico Dalida Jr., Chedeng could bring relief to parched areas in Mindanao, which experienced 60 percent decrease in rainfall due to the prevailing weak El Niño.
However, La Mesa Dam, which is now way below critical level may not benefit from the cyclone as it is too far from the circulation, said PAGASA Deputy Administrator Flaviana Hilario.
She also pointed out that the El Niño event is expected to become full-blown by the end of March, which could lead to a further decrease in rainfall over several areas in the next three months.