MANILA (Updated, 6:57 p.m.) – Tropical Storm Helen (international name: Kai-Tak) continues to threaten Northern Luzon and is expected to make landfall in Cagayan area on Wednesday morning, the weather bureau said Tuesday.
The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) also listed the storm's first fatality, Armando Borbon of Basista, Pangasinan. He died on Monday morning after suffering an epileptic seizure and falling into a flooded rice field in Dumpay village.
Senior weather forecaster Robert Sawi of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) said after hitting Cagayan, the storm will move out of the country by Thursday morning as it heads toward Taiwan.
"Ini-expect natin na mag-landfall ito around 8 a.m. Wednesday, but there is another scenario, kung hindi ito mag-landfall, may dadaan na weather system o tinatawag na westerly trough. Once na matapat ito kay bagyong Helen, gagalaw ito ng northward and then balik ito westerly, then palabas ng bansa...We are still monitoring," Sawi said.
He said "Helen" has slim chance to turn into typhoon, but it can gain strength since it is over the sea and become a severe tropical storm.
As of 4 p.m. Tuesday, "Helen" was seen 230 kilometers (km) east southeast of Tuguegarao City in Cagayan.
Packing maximum winds of 85 kilometers per hour (kph) near the center and gustiness of up to 100 kph, it was forecast to move northwest at 13 kph.
Pagasa raised public storm signal number 2 over Cagayan, Calayan Group of Islands, Babuyan Group of Islands, Isabela, Apayao, Kalinga, Ilocos Norte, Abra and Batanes Group of Islands.
The weather agency said these provinces are expected to experience 61 to 100 kph winds within the next 24 hours.
Public storm warning signal number 1 (45-60 kph winds) is hoisted over Aurora, Quirino, Nueva Vizcaya, Ifugao, Benguet, Mountain Province, La Union, and Ilocos Sur.
Residents living in low-lying and mountainous areas under public storm warning signal numbers 2 and 1 are alerted against possible flash floods and landslides.
Likewise, those living in coastal areas under public storm warning number 2 are alerted against big waves or storm surges generated by Tropical Storm Helen, Pagasa said.
It said the storm is expected to enhance the southwest monsoon that will bring rains over Luzon and the Visayas, especially over the western section.
Pagasa said Helen carries about 20 to 35 millimeters of rains per hour (intense-torrential) within its 500-km diameter coverage.
It added that intermittent light to moderate rains (2.5-7.5 mm/hr) are now affecting Central and Southern Luzon, becoming more frequent moderate to heavy rains (7.5-10 mm/hr) over Quezon, Rizal, Bulacan, Pampanga, Laguna, Cavite, Batangas, Mindoro, Bataan, Zambales, Pangasinan, Tarlac and Metro Manila.
Fishing boats and other small sea crafts are advised not to venture out into the seaboards of Central and Southern Luzon and Visayas due to Helen and the southwest monsoon.
Helen is forecast to be 180 km north of Tuguegarao City or 70 km north of Aparri, Cagayan by Wednesday afternoon and 380 km northwest Aparri or 300 km west northwest of Basco, Batanes by Thursday afternoon.
In preparation for the storm's onslaught, the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) said it has laid out measures to minimize the impact on the Luzon grid's power transmission operations and facilities.
"Preparations include ensuring the reliability of communications equipment, availability of hardware materials and supplies necessary for the repair of damages to facilities, as well as the positioning of line crews in strategic areas to facilitate restoration work," the NGCP said.
Last week, over 300,000 customers of the Manila Electric Company in Metro Manila and nearby areas suffered power interruptions because of massive flooding caused by the southwest monsoon. Meralco is the country's largest power distributor. (PNA/Virgil Lopez/SDR/Sunnex)