Although nothing seems to be very threatening in terms of tropical development in the Atlantic right now, this definitely has not been the case this week in the northwestern Pacific and now the South China Sea. In this part of the world, they refer to hurricanes as typhoons and major hurricanes are called super typhoons.
On Monday, Super Typhoon Megi slammed into the Philippines with sustained winds of 140 mph and gusts to 162 mph. Super Typhoons are capable of causing catastrophic damage and this was the strongest cyclone to hit the Philippines in four years. So far it has killed at least 19 people, but this number could rise in the coming days. Megi hit an area that was sparsely populated and the damage/casualties could have been a lot worse if it had hit a more populated area. More than 200,000 people in the northern Philippines have been affected.
After passing over the mountainous terrain of the northern Philippines, more specifically Luzon, Megi weakened into a typhoon. Once it emerged into the South China Sea on Tuesday, Megi began to gradually re-intensify. It’s expected to make landfall into southern China later this week with max winds near 125 kts with gusts to 150 kts. As of 0600Z on Wednesday, max winds are at 115 kts with gusts to 140 kts and at 0900Z it’s located about 320 nm south-southeast of Hong Kong. Megi is moving north-northwest at 5 knots and is expected to make landfall just to the northeast of Hong Kong on Saturday.
The Philippines have been devastated by Megi and it looks like their rice crop could be in jeopardy. The Philippines is the world’s largest rice importer and the worst case scenario is that that the typhoon damaged 232,169 tonnes of unmilled rice crop. Officials estimate the losses will be between 52,000 and 105,000 tonnes. This could increase international prices as only 1/3 of the crop has been harvested so far and right now’s the peak of the harvest season. An assessment will now be done to determine the extent of the damage.
To put it into perspective, Typhoon Megi is larger and stronger than Hurricane Katrina was in 2005 before making landfall near Buras-Triumph, Louisiana. On October 17, it was the first tropical cyclone to have a pressure below 900 millibars since Hurricane Wilma in 2005. Megi’s lowest pressure was 885 mbar and Wilma’s was 882 mbar. The 2010 Pacific typhoon season began in April and doesn’t end until January 2011.