Typhoon Kammuri emerged a week ago and did not attract much attention as a common typhoon in the central-western part of the Pacific Ocean. But it has gained strength in the last 24 hours just before hitting land in the Philippines. Although it is expected to weaken in the coming days, Kammuri will continue to shed heavy rains throughout the country, including the capital city of Manila.
As of Monday night, local time, Kammuri (or Tisoy, as the Philippine meteorological agency calls it) accumulated sustained winds of more than 210 km / h with gusts of up to 260 km / h. That makes it the equivalent of a Category 4 hurricane. Only 24 hours earlier, the storm was the equivalent of a Category 1 storm with sustained winds of 140 km / h.
The increase of 70 kmh in winds in a 24-hour period is more than enough to count as a rapid intensification, a term used for storms that see winds increase 50 kmh in a 24-hour window. A storm that intensifies rapidly is never a good thing, but particularly when it occurs just before it hits the ground. That is exactly what happened with Typhoon Kammuri, unfortunately.
The storm has intensified just when it hit the ground around midnight, local time, near Gubat, on the southeast coast of the main island of the Philippines. The storm forced more than 100,000 people to evacuate on Sunday. Explosive winds are certainly cause for alarm. But the real concern is the torrential rain of the storm, particularly on the flanks of Mayon, one of the most active volcanoes in the country. Although the storm is not expected to pass directly over Mayon, it could still generate heavy rains. That in turn could throw loose debris and cause dangerous flash floods, mud flows from heavy volcanic ash known as lahars. That is why the mandatory evacuation order is mainly for people who live in rivers and hillside valleys.
"You can imagine the impact and strength when heavy rains induce these volcanic materials to cascade, causing a collapse or rupture of river channels”Said Cedric Daep, head of the provincial Office of Emergency and Public Security Management, according to the Philippine News Agency. "This happened during Super Typhoon Reming in 2006".
Reming dropped half a meter of rain on Mayon's slopes, unleashing lahars that they killed more than 1,000 people and completely destroyed the villages on their way. Volcanic ash can absorb large amounts of water and has the ability to double its weight when wet, which can make recovery operations difficult. (This was an important problem in Guatemala last year after a major eruption by Volcán del Fuego during the country's rainy season).
However, Kammuri not only represents a threat to Gubat and the areas around Mayon. The storm will continue through Luzon Island and could affect Manila with heavy rain and wind. The forecast of the Joint Typhoon Warning Center showed that the capital of the Philippines is within the cone of probability of a direct impact. But even if I tiptoed I could soak the city.
The Philippines is the most prone country to tropical cyclones in the world. (Tropical cyclone is the generic name for typhoons and hurricanes). The waters near the islands are warm throughout the year, which gives the storms the fuel they need to thrive. The country also has an extensive coastline, which makes it vulnerable to the impacts of tropical cyclones. Still, summer is usually the busiest time for typhoons, while December is usually the beginning of the relatively quiet season for the island nation, according to records kept by the country's meteorological service.
Climate change is likely to play a role in making storms like Kammuri more common. The findings in Nature Geoscience show that the number of typhoons that intensify rapidly near land is increasing due to warmer oceans. Kammuri is, unfortunately, a textbook example of it.