‘Buhawe’-A A +A
Wednesday, November 6, 2013
MY WORK station is on the second floor of our office and faces its north side window.
The window is mostly tinted glass with blinds, some of whose slats are loose, allowing me to get a glimpse of the trees across the street during the day or the partly lighted darkness at night.
Monday night, the rain fell and flashes of lightning continuously lit the sky for several minutes, followed by thunder rolls. When the flashes were particularly bright, sports editor Mike Limpag would direct our attention to them with his groaning.
While I still worry about being hit by lightning, I have learned to rein in the fear after years of experiencing thunderstorms. I would estimate the distance that separates me from the lightning by the duration of the delay the thunder roll reaches my position. The longer the delay, the more assured I would be of my safety.
We didn’t know early on that the thunderstorm had formed a twister or two in the northern side of Cebu’s main urban center—portions of Cebu city, Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu cities, Compostela town and even farther north as Danao City and Carmen town. From our radio monitoring, reports about the destruction soon filtered in.
Was the weather disturbance a tornado (alimpus) or a waterspout (buhawe)? And was it singular (one tornado/waterspout) or plural (multiple tornadoes/waterspouts)? We won’t know for sure because the disturbance/s occurred at night and its/their formation couldn’t be seen.
A tornado is a twister that occurs on land while a waterspout is one that forms above a body of water. A tornado is obviously more dangerous because it immediately affects possibly populated areas. Waterspouts, though, sometimes move toward and hit land.
As the victims pick up the pieces from the tornado/waterspout, the tropical storm with the international name Haiyan is moving closer to the Philippine area of responsibility (PAR), packing winds of less than 200 kilometers per hour, although it is expected to strengthen to 220 kph a couple of days from now.
Haiyan is expected to enter the Philippine area of responsibility today and make landfall on Friday. It will then be named Yolanda.
What makes Yolanda different from most of the storms that hit the country this year is that it not only is particularly strong but is heading towards central Philippines, possibly hitting the Samar provinces first. Previous storms lashed at either Mindanao or Luzon, sparing us.
The usual path of storms that pass the Samar area is towards Luzon. But there were times in the past when the eye of the storm moved through Cebu island towards Western Visayas. An example is typhoon Amy in the ‘50s. Loss of lives and damage to property were high.
I understand that local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Councils have convened to talk about preparations for Yolanda. Among the things that we should watch out for are flashfloods and landslides that may be spawned by torrential rains the storm will bring. Of course, the storm could also spawn thunderstorms and possibly tornado or waterspout.
Those who live in hilly lands should be particularly careful. In Cebu and Mandaue cities, experience has shown that flashfloods can be damaging in some areas. And all of us should brace for the strong winds that accompany this kind of weather disturbance. Houses made from light materials should be strengthened.
Then again, Yolanda may weaken and the threat of destruction minimized. But if we err, we have to err on the side of caution.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on November 06, 2013.