WEATHER forecasters advised residents in eastern and northern Luzon to evacuate now as "very intense and destructive" Typhoon Ompong (Mangkhut) is moving closer to the country and may destroy houses and topple trees and electric posts particularly in Cagayan-Isabela area.
The typhoon, as of 4 p.m. Friday, September 14, was located at 340 kilometers east northeast of Casiguran, Aurora, still packing maximum winds of 205 kilometers per hour (kph) near the center and gusts of up to 255 kph. It accelerated Friday afternoon, moving northwest at 30 kph.
The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) said Ompong is expected to make landfall in Cagayan-Isabela area early morning of Saturday (September 15), around 5 a.m. to 8 a.m. Storm signal number 4 has been raised over Cagayan and northern Isabela.
"Sa ngayon na malayo pa yung mata, binabayo na yung mga bayan sa northeast Luzon. If masusustain yung speed ng bagyo, yung lakas ng hangin mabilis na mararamdaman nila. Ang pinakamalakas ay nandoon sa eye wall," said Renito Paciente, assistant weather services chief of Pagasa.
(Towns in northeast Luzon are already experiencing the effects of the typhoon. If Ompong will maintain its speed, residents in these areas will experience strong winds fast; the strongest is in areas located in the typhoon's eye wall.)
Dr. Vicente Malano, Pagasa administrator, advised the residents in areas expected to be battered by Ompong to evacuate now and not wait for Pagasa's advisory on what specific area the typhoon will hit land.
"Wag na nating hintayin kung saan exactly maglalandfall ang mata. Kahit na wala pang landfall, malalakas na po ang hangin na mararanasan before landfall. Malaki po yung bagyo," he said.
(Don't wait for Pagasa's advisory on where exactly the typhoon will make landfall. Even before its landfall, winds are already strong. The typhoon is so big.)
Ompong has a diameter of 900 kilometers. Its eye has 88-kilometer diameter, said Pagasa.
Malano said residents in areas where the typhoon's eye will pass will experience more than two hours of no wind. The weather will be calm; this means they are in the center of the typhoon.
"But after two hours, you will feel again the strong winds for one to two hours," he said. "Wag tayong magkampante (Don't be complacent)."
But Paciente said there is a slim chance that Ompong will develop into a super typhoon.
"Lumalaki na ang mata ng bagyo, which means nag-umpisa na syang manghina. Maliit masyado yung tsansa na lumakas pa yung bagyo (The eye of the typhoon is getting wider, which means it is starting to weaken. The chance for it to develop into a super typhoon is slim)," said Paciente.
But he warned residents in areas under signal number 4 and 3, saying the typhoon is "very intense and very destructive" that it will damage houses, especially those made of light materials, and can uproot trees and topple electric posts.
"Up to 75 percent ang chance na masisira ang mga bahay. Marami syang punong ma-uproot, including electric posts (The typhoon will destroy houses, uproot trees, including electric posts)," said Paciente.
He added that the storm surge in coastal areas in northern Luzon will happen around early morning of Saturday, September 15, when the typhoon makes landfall.
"Pag tumama yung mata, storm surge will happen. Kasabay to sa pagtama ng lupa ng bagyo...Madaling araw maging alerto na tayo (The storm surge will happen early morning of Saturday in time for the typhoon's landfall. Be ready and alert)," he said.
Typhoon Ompong is the 15th tropical cyclone to batter the country this year. (LMY/SunStar Philippines)