Haiyan: the Deadliest Typhoon in the Philippines
Haiyan among other Super Typhoons
The strength of a typhoon (hurricane or cyclone) is determined by the top speed of sustained winds, not gusts. With this being said, super typhoon Haiyan (locally known as Yolanda) reached the maximum sustained wind of 314 kph (195 mph) upon hitting the Philippines on November 8 making it the strongest tropical cyclone on record to make a landfall (tied with Meranti) in world history beating the record of the 1969 Hurricane Camille.
Hurricane Camille struck Mississippi on 1969 bearing strong winds sustained at 190 miles per hour making it the second strongest tropical cyclone in history.
On record, Haiyan is the fifth strongest cyclone on Earth in terms of wind strength. The four stronger cyclones are: Typhoon Nancy in 1961 with sustained winds of 346 kph (215 mph); Hurricane Patricia in 2015 with sustained winds of 345kph; Typhoon Violet (1961) with sustained winds of 330 kph (205 mph); and Typhoon Ida in 1958 with sustained winds of 322 kph (200 mph). All these four super typhoons, however, gradually weakened at sea before they even hit the land. Furthermore, meteorological experts stated that the 1940-1960's records are too high to be believable making Haiyan officially on top of the list. In terms of size and minimum central pressure, however, Super typhoon Tip remains to be the most intense cyclone ever recorded. It also used to be among the typhoons with highest wind speed recorded until Haiyan/Yolanda happened.
Beast storm Haiyan (as it was often called by lay people and media) raised the notion that scientists should expand the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale. A Category 1 storm contains sustained wind strength at 74-95 mph. Additional of 20 miles per hour or so rises the stage or the category of the storm. Ultimately, Category 5 storms have sustained winds at 157 miles per hour and higher. This scale, however, is way too below the record achieved by super typhoon Haiyan. At 195 mph, typhoon Haiyan, according to some experts, should be scaled as Category 6.
As rational as it may seem, Jeff Masters, director of meteorology at Weather Underground and the one who set the all time record for Haiyan, doesn't see the benefit of raising the scale. Anything that is higher than Category 5 wouldn't make warnings or evacuation orders any stronger than it should have. Actions to be taken and emergency response are already at maximum during category 5 storms so there wouldn't be any more possible alterations. It is also unthinkable to downgrade a category 6 storm to category 5 and say "it's weakening" when the truth is category 5 is already catastrophic.
Meanwhile, Eric Holthaus, meteorologist and weather journalist, was reportedly amazed that Yolanda/Haiyan went off the charts as it approached the Philippines. He said that the US National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) had issued a bulletin stating that the storm's intensity can no longer be tracked using the widely used Dvorak Storm Intensity Scale. Holthaus further explained that Haiyan approached the theoretical maximum intensity for any storm anywhere and that the most commonly used Satellite-based intensity scale was not designed to handle a storm as strong as Yolanda.
A storm surge is quite similar to tsunamis when it comes to signals and effects but they differ in origin. Storm surge is a huge sea wave caused by a strong typhoon when the winds push the water towards inland; tsunamis on the other hand are a series of giant sea waves caused by a massive earthquake or landslide.
When Yolanda (Haiyan) struck the Philippines on Friday morning, the coastal City of Tacloban and nearby towns in Samar, Leyte, and even as far reaching as Catanduanes province were engulfed in a series of massive storm surges.
Storm Surges inflict the deadliest and most destructive damages during storms. Their height varies according to the strength of the winds and for how long this strength is sustained; it is also affected by the speed of the storm and the shape of the sea floor leading up to the coast. Scientists estimated that the storm surge when Yolanda first made its landfall was anywhere between 15-20 meters. This is enough to submerge 2-storey building and wash away heavy cars and ships towards inland.
City in Ruins: The Aftermath
On November 11, President Benigno Aquino III declared a State of National Calamity in the Philippines for the sole purpose of hastening the action of the government towards helping, rescuing, and rehabilitating the affected provinces destroyed by super typhoon Yolanda's wrath.
4,000 people are confirmed dead due to drowning and collapsed establishments; 1,598 people are still missing; and 18,175 are injured after super typhoon Yolanda left the country. Number of affected areas are 9,303 barangays in 44 provinces, 536 municipalities and 55 cities of Regions IV-A, IV-B, V, VI, VII, VIII, X, XI and CARAGA. A total of 86,909 families or 422,390 persons are being served in 1142 evacuation centers in the country. 90% of the Tacloban City was literally flattened. 287,199 houses were destroyed and all the roads and bridges were rendered impassable.
The cost of damage is already estimated to have reached more than 10 billion pesos.Power outage is experienced in all the affected areas and no communication lines and cellular signals anywhere. Communication and transportation are both ruptured during the first three days after the devastation. Water supply is also very scarce almost unimaginable.
There are dead bodies lying everywhere and most are already on the advanced stage of decomposition, stagnant waters along the flooded areas are dirty and foul-smelling. Debris are scattered everywhere, leaving no standing structure in sight especially along coastal areas and the city of Tacloban. Large ships were pushed inland by the massive storm surge and trees are all bent downward if not completely destroyed.
Local and International Help to the Philippines
The aftermath of Yolanda proved to be devastating. Millions were left homeless and without food, water, medicine, clothing, and electricity. Relief operations were hampered because of blocked roads, impassable bridges, no supply of gasoline, disrupted communication and debris scattered all over the place. People were so desperate to keep themselves alive and so they succumbed to criminal acts of looting. They ransacked trucks carrying relief goods, and stole almost everything they need in the city...from warehouses to cargo ships to local grocery stores and malls. The Province of Leyte and Samar became a war zone and anarchy is believed to have briefly stayed there.
Twenty-three countries along with several international organizations have already sent different types of assistance to the victims of Typhoon Yolanda including the United Nations and the European Unions. The offers of assistance vary from deployment of search and rescue teams and medical personnel, provision of relief goods such as food, water, tents, blankets, and clothes among others, provision of medical supplies and vaccine; deployment of ships and aircraft and cash donation.
President Noynoy Aquino of the Philippines expressed his gratitude to all local and international partners who helped the country by extending their assistance. He also thanked the Overseas Filipino Workers who never failed to help their country in times of crisis. Furthermore, the President of the Philippines urged Filipinos to remain resilient and faithful.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2013 Jennifer Gonzales