It happened on a Saturday morning. Heavy rains continued to pour as a number of cars were already floating in water. A few hours later, people were soaked in neck-deep floods, while some were stranded on roads, bridges and roofs. Rich and poor alike, survivors cried for help as they witnessed their prized belongings swept away by raging floods. Such was the scene that unfolded at the height of “Ondoy,” the worst storm to hit Metro Manila in almost four decades.
On September 24, 2009, a low-pressure area inside the Philippine boundary developed into a tropical depression and was named “Ondoy,” with the international name Ketsana. Two days later, it intensified into a tropical storm, which made landfall in the boundary of Aurora and Quezon, and crossed Central Luzon for 12 hours. On the same day, it enhanced the habagat, which brought rains concentrated in Metro Manila, Central and Southern Luzon, and some parts of Visayas and Mindanao.
At 455 millimeters, the amount of rain accumulated in Metro Manila within 24 hours surpassed the normal monthly amount in the metropolis, according to PAGASA.
IN THE WAKE OF ONDOY
“Ondoy” exited the Philippine boundary on September 27, 2009 leaving a wake of devastation
Based on the final report of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (then the National Disaster Coordinating Council), Tropical Storm Ondoy affected 4.9 million people in the country. The enhancement of the habagat resulted to floods in 1,786 barangays in 26 provinces, and landslides in some parts of Cagayan, Pampanga and Camarines Sur. The catastrophic storm also took 464 lives, injured 529 and caused 37 unaccounted for. Damage to infrastructure and agriculture amounted to P11 billion.
On the seventh anniversary of the disastrous storm, we visited Marikina, one of Metro Manila’s hardest-hit areas. We asked survivors to share with us some of the lessons that the Ondoy tragedy has taught them. Here are some of their answers:
1) Preparedness is a must.
“Sobrang takot. Kapag may nagbabaha na ngayon, nagre-ready na kami. Nag-aabang na kami, baka sakaling bumaha, ay lumikas na tayo sa matataas na lugar. Alam na namin ang gagawin namin kapag andiyan na eh. Hinahanda namin ‘yung mga gamit namin. May plano na. ‘Yung kahandaan na kasi noong una, biglaan yun. Natakot din kami. Hindi namin alam ang gagawin namin.”
(It was frightening. Now, when flood occurs, we start to prepare. We monitor updates, while planning our evacuation to higher grounds. We were afraid before but now, we already know what to do.)
– REY BAYAOA, a 52-year-old shoemaker in Tumana who saved his family of six during Ondoy
“Kasi dati ang ugali namin, pateka-teka kami. Once na nagkakaroon ng bagyo, kampante ‘yung mga tao na hindi tataas ‘yung tubig o kaya, kakayanin ng bahay nila. Pero ngayon, kapag sinabing may bagyo at nag-signal number three na sa Metro Manila, automatic, ‘yung mga gamit na kayang iakyat, tinataas na,”
(We were complacent before. We were confident that our homes could protect us from flood. But now, we automatically move our things to higher ground, especially when signal number 3 is raised in Metro Manila.)
– KATRIN ABELLA, 24-year-old employee who recalled losing four neighbors due to leptospirosis that became rampant after Ondoy.
2) Be familiar with warning systems.
“Mahalaga, para makapaghanda ang mga tao. Meron na rin dati, nag-a-alarm. Kapag 15, alert ‘yun. May maiksi, may mahabang tunog. Kapag mas mahaba, malapit na sa critical ‘yun, mga 17 na yun. Tsaka kapag matagal ang ulan, nakabantay na kami. Ang alam ko, kapag hindi malakas ang hangin, habagat yun. Kapag may ulan at hampas ng hangin, bagyo. Okay naman ang PAGASA, maganda ngayon. High-tech na.”
(It is important that we know various alarms from the river warning system; a shorter siren means alert level or a river height of 15 meters. A longer siren means an almost critical level, close to 17 meters. When the rains are prolonged, we are already on the lookout. As far as I know, habagat has weaker winds while a tropical cyclone has stronger ones. PAGASA is instrumental since they have more advanced technology now.)
– ROMEO BUENAVENTURA, 58-year-old resident of Barangay Barangka who recalled how they witnessed the sudden rise of Marikina River in September 2009
3) Never be complacent.
“’Yung bahay namin, wala pang one kilometer away from the Marikina River… Sina mama, naging kampante sila na hindi kami aabutin ng baha. ‘Yung bahay kasi namin hanggang third floor, maliban dun, first experience naming ‘yun na sobrang baha. Sa mga dati naming bahay, kapag sinabing baha, hanggang tuhod, hanggang bewang, hindi naming in-expect na kapag sa Marikina pala, floor by floor ng bahay ang pinag-uusapan. So hindi sila lumikas… may dumating na chopper mula sa LGU tapos iniligtas sila.”
(My mom lives one kilometer away from the Marikina River. My mother was confident since our house had three floors. Before, floods only reached up to our knees and waists. We were not used to the kind of massive flood Ondoy brought so they did not evacuate. Fortunately, a chopper came to rescue them.) – KATRIN ABELLLA
4) We must care for the environment.
“Yung mga ilog, ginagawa ng ibang tapunan. Kalinisan dapat. Dapat tinatapon sa lagayan ng mga basura. Hindi sa mga ilog.”
(Some people throw garbage into the rivers. We must observe cleanliness. We should manage wastes properly.)
– GENARD GUEVARRA, 21 years old and lives just a few meters away from the Marikina River
“Kailangan talaga may pagmamahal sa kalikasan. ‘Wag babuyin. ‘Wag lagyan ng basura. Dito ang takbuhan ng ulan eh, mula sa Quezon City at Montalban. ‘Yung mga basura, inaagos.”
(We should love our environment. We shouldn’t degrade it. Rubbish from Quezon City and Montalban are brought here to our city through the river.) – ROMEO BUENAVENTURA
5) Cooperation matters.
“Gan’un na lang kaimportante ang kooperasyon ng mga LGUs sa mga kalamidad na kagaya ng Ondoy kasi nga sila ‘yung may kontrol. Kumbaga, sila ‘yung medium ng mga tao para malaman kung gaano na ba kataas ‘yung tubig sa ilog o kung kailangan na ba talaga lumikas. Nakadepende rin sa kanila ‘yung safety ng mga tao, halimbawa, mali sila ng information na ibinigay… mas maraming mamamatay.”
(Cooperation among local government units is important during calamities since they have control. They also inform us how high the river is, or if we already need to evacuate. Our safety depends on them. If they give us wrong information, lives will suffer.) – KATRIN ABELLA
6) There is hope after a tragedy.
“Yung mga gamit, kahit paano, unti-unti namin na-recover. Syempre, hindi naman mabibigla na bibili ulit. Ang mahalaga, unti-unting bumabangaon.”
(We cannot easily replace our lost possessions, but we are trying to recover, little by little. What matters is that we will stand up again.) – REY BAYAOA
7) Keep the faith.
“Anim kami. Wala namang napahamak sa amin. Awa ng Diyos, nailigitas ko lahat ng pamilya ko. Kumpleto pa rin kaya ngayon. Kapag umuulan, nakahanda na kami bilang mag-anak.”
(There are six of us in the family. No one was hurt. By the grace of God, I was able to save my family members. Now, when it rains, our family automatically prepares.) – REY BAYAOA
More than half a decade has passed, and still, memories from the Ondoy calamity burn clear in people’s minds. But more important than the tragedy are the valuable lessons we’ve learned to make sure that we don’t suffer such great devastation and loss ever again.
As we begin the countdown to ending another year, we take a look at the weather events that made 2014 memorable, weather-wise.
Situation: Tropical Cyclones
This year, a total of 19 tropical cyclones entered the PAR (Philippine Area of Responsibility).
The first was Agaton, which made its entry last January 17. Though it was identified as a Tropical Depression, the lowest category for cyclones, Agaton caused severe flooding in Eastern Visayas, Northern Mindanao and the CARAGA region.
According to the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (NDRRMC), 244,344 families were affected in more than a thousand villages in 16 provinces. There were at least 1,147 houses destroyed and more than one thousand partially damaged. All in all, damages in infrastructure and agriculture were estimated at more than 500 million pesos.
From the 19 tropical cyclones that entered PAR, 10 were under the Typhoon category with wind speeds of 118 to 220 kilometers per hour.
From these 10 typhoons, Ompong and Ruby could be categorized as Super Typhoons.
Entering PAR on October 7 and making its exit on October 11, Ompong, with international name Vongfong, was classified by the U.S Joint Typhoon Warning Center as a Category 5 Super Typhoon.
Packing maximum sustained winds of 215 kilometers per hour and gustiness of 250 kilometers per hour, Ompong—thankfully— did not hit the country as it re-curved towards Mainland Japan.
But Typhoon Ruby was totally different story. With the fitting “Hagupit” as its international name, Ruby entered the country’s boundary on December 3 and made its way out on December 11. With maximum sustained winds of 215 kilometers per hour and gustiness of 250 kilometers per hour, Ompong made five landfalls.
First landfall: Dolores, Eastern Samar
Second landfall: Cataingan, Masbate
Third landfall: Torrijos, Masbate
Fourth landfall: Laiya, Batangas
Fifth landfall: Lubang, Island
The NDRRMC filed a total of more than four million residents affected in Regions III, IV-A, IV-B, V, VI, VII, VIII, CARAGA and the National Capital Region. 18 deaths were recorded while injured persons reached up to 916. Ruby damaged mostly infrastructure and agriculture—the total cost amounting to more than 5 billion peos.
Due to its devastating impact, a state of calamity was declared in San Pablo City in Laguna, Batangas, Albay, Camarines Sur, Catanduanes, Masbate, Naga City, Juaban and Gubat in Sorsogon, Sorsogon City, Aklan; Maayon, Dumalag and Panay in Capiz; and Northern and Eastern Samar.
Because fatal storm surges brought by Typhoon Yolanda in 2013 made the public more aware of this weather phenomenon, Ruby kept Filipinos on their toes.
Coincidentally, while Ruby was inside PAR, an astronomical event happened. This was the Full Moon phase, which caused higher tidal variations due to our satellite’s strong gravitational pull.
Weather forecaster Chris Perez explained that higher waves were expected due to the combination of storm surge and the effects of the Full Moon.
Watch the Interview: Storm Tide
PAGASA officially announced the start of the Hot and Dry season last March 26. Easterlies, the prevailing wind system during this time, brought hot and humid weather to the country.
Aside from the easterlies, this season’s indicators included the presence of the High Pressure Area (HPA), which brings good weather conditions, the termination of the northeast monsoon, and the increase in temperatures.
Upon the onset of the Hot and Dry season, the country undeniably experienced a number of scorching days that were especially evident in the Luzon area.
In March, Tuguegarao recorded a maximum temperature of 37.9 degrees Celsius. But its days got hotter in April and May, which brought in temperatures of 39 degrees and 39.8 degrees consecutively.
Meanwhile, the Science Garden in Quezon City documented a high of 36.7 degrees Celsius in May.
The Unpredictable El Niño
Within this year, the El Niño phenomenon became a hot topic during the hot season as PAGASA continued to monitor the ups and down of sea surface temperature.
From April 21 to 28, PAGASA recorded a substantial increase in the sea surface temperature anomaly from 0.2 to 0.4 degree Celsius. It was then forecast that El Niño might reach its peak in the last quarter of 2014.
But with the recent report from the International Research Institute for Climate and Society, only weak El Nino conditions were observed in November and December.
Here comes the rain!
The rainy season in the country officially started in June 10. Before declaring the onset of this season, PAGASA first made sure that the following requirements were met:
• Daily thunderstorm activity
• Prevailing southwest monsoon
• 5-day period with a total rainfall of 25 millimeters or more in three consecutive days.
Come on, Amihan!
The Amihan season was officially declared by PAGASA on October 16. The northeast monsoon or amihan is the prevailing wind system, bringing light rains to its affected areas. It also has cold and dry characteristics, resulting to colder mornings.
At this time of the year, a gradual decrease in temperatures was observed in different parts of the country.
Winter season in the northern hemisphere officially started on December 22 this year. This also signaled the start of experiencing longer nights and shorter days in the Philippines.
During the winter solstice, the northern hemisphere leans the farthest distance from the Sun, causing longer nights and lower temperatures for those in the northern hemisphere. The opposite happens in the southern hemisphere where people experience the longest day.
Related article: Winter has arrived
Although a lot has happened this year, there’s more to come this 2015. So brace yourself for those inevitable storms, but remember to keep to the sunny side of the street. With all the changes the weather brings, one thing stays the same: the Filipino brand of resilience that knows no bounds.
Christmas is about gift-giving and celebrating with families and friends. This year, aside from the parties and presents, we must also prepare our emergency kit and rainy day essentials as #NinaPH threatens to affect the country.
According to the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), an average number of 1 or 2 tropical cyclones enter the PAR during the month of December. PAGASA added that these cyclones have a higher chance of hitting the landmass during ber months due to the effect of the northeast monsoon or amihan that directs the cyclones towards the country–which means that our holidays may be as merry as they are stormy. Take a look at some of the tropical cyclones that dropped by our country during the holiday season in the last few decades.
This tropical cyclone started as a cloud cluster spotted in Guam, which later developed into a tropical cyclone on the 22nd of December, 1981. From a tropical depression, it was named “Dinang” as it intensified into a tropical storm. Dinang initially moved west-northwest but changed its course to a westward direction due to the influence of a ridge of a high pressure area.
Dinang gained strength and intensified into a typhoon with maximum sustained winds that reached 185 kilometers per hour. It lashed the northern tip of Samar on Christmas Eve. It crossed the southern portion of Bicol Region, through the Bondoc peninsula, Marinduque and Mindoro. Dinang was located at 120 kilometers south of Metro Manila on December 26, which, according to PAGASA was its closest distance from the country’s capital.
It then moved towards the South China Sea, and after 48 hours of reaching its peak intensity, it weakened and dissipated.
By virtue of the Proclamation No. 2150, a state of public calamity in the provinces of Northern Samar, Masbate, Oriental Mindoro and Romblon was declared due to the damage brought by Dinang.
Apiang became a tropical storm in the afternoon of December 23, 1988. It threatened Bicol, Quezon, Aurora, Quirino, Isabela and Cagayan. However, other weather systems weakend and slowed it down. PAGASA noted its clockwise loop on December 25, and was downgraded into a tropical depression. By the morning of December 26, Apiang already dissipated.
This cyclone crossed the PAR from the 23rd up to the 29th of December in 1993. Moving west-northwest, it made its way towards the Surigao-Leyte Area and passed through Bohol, Cebu, Negros, Panay and the Calamian Group of Islands.
Signal 3 was hoisted over Surigao Provinces, Dinagat Island, Agusan Del Norte, Camiguin Island, Southern Leyte, Bohol, Cebu, Siquijor, Negros, Panay and Northern Palawan. Signal Number 2 was raised over Agusan Del Sur, Masbate, Misamis Provinces, Albay, Romblon, Sorsogon, Burias Island, Lanao Provinces, Davao Del Norte, Davao Oriental, Bukidnon, Zamboanga Del Norte, the rest of Palawan, Mindoro and the rest of Visayas. Metro Manila, Bataan, the rest of Southern Luzon, Lubang Island and the rest of Mindanao were put under Signal Number 1.
157 people were recorded dead while 276 were injured.
Typhoon Puring was the 32nd tropical storm that hit the country in 1993. This was a record-breaking season because normally, an average of only 19 to 20 tropical cyclones enters the PAR each year.
On December 25, 1995, Trining formed into a tropical depression in the South Philippine Sea. It moved eastward close to the Southern Leyte – Surigao del Norte area but later changed course. Moving northeast, it exited the PAR through the northern part of the Philippine Sea.
From an active low pressure area (LPA) spotted east of Bicol, Zigzag developed into a tropical depression on Christmas morning in 2003. While moving westward, it slowed down in the evening of the 26th. Public Storm Warning Signal Number 1 was raised over the Bicol Region, Samar, Leyte, Biliran, Bohol, Cebu, Negros Oriental, Siquijor, Surigao Provinces, Agusan del Norte and Camiguin. Zigzag moved towards Visayas, crossing the southern part of Samar and Leyte. After hitting the land, it weakened into a low pressure area in the morning of December 28.
As a low pressure area, this weather disturbance moved over the east of Northern Mindanao where it developed into a tropical depression on December 25, 2012. Quinta intensified into a Tropical Storm and was given an international name Wukong, which means a famous hero in a Chinese Story.
Nearing the landmass, Signal number 2 was declared over Eastern Samar, Leyte, Southern Leyte, Dinagat Province, Siargao Island, Western Samar, Cebu, Camotes Island, Bohol, Biliran, Surigao del Norte, Dinagat Island, Sorsogon, Masbate, Ticao and the northern part of Negros Oriental.
Meanwhile, Signal number 1 was raised over Occidental & Oriental Mindoro, Northern Palawan, Calamian Group of Islands, Cuyo Island, Marinduque, Romblon, Lubang Island, Aklan, Capiz, Antique, Iloilo, the rest of Negros Oriental, Guimaras, Camiguin, Siquijor, Burias Island, Camarines Sur, Catanduanes, Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur and Misamis Oriental.
Quinta crossed the region of Visayas where it made its landfall 7 times.
1st landfall: Eastern Samar
2nd landfall: Albuyog, Leyte
3rd – 5th landfall: Poro Island, Pacijan and Catmon (all in Cebu Province)
6th landfall: Northern part of Roxas
7th landfall: Coron, Palawan
After its series of landfalls, Quinta finally weakened into a tropical depression before it headed to Palawan. It moved towards the West Philippine Sea and further weakened due to the cold air intrusion from the amihan over the west of Palawan.
In a Situational Report of the NDRRMC dated on December 31, 2012, 44 incidents were monitored: two maritime incidents in Regions IV-A, IV-B, V and VIII; one drowing incident in Region V; one missing person and two falling tree incidents in Region VIII; one capsized banca in CARAGA; and thirty-three flooding incidents in Regions V, VI and VIII.
More than 50 thousand families were affected in Regions IV-B, V, VI, VII and VIII. Twenty people were reported dead, three were injured and four were missing. Quinta damaged more than 5 thousand houses in Regions VI, VII and VIII. Cost of damage amounted to more than 200 million pesos in infrastructure and agriculture.
Quinta’s intensity has brought storm surge over Cebu, Borongan City and Merida, Leyte on December 26, 2012 in which 2 casualties were recorded by the Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards (NOAH).
Preparation in the midst of Celebration
The tropical cyclones mentioned above are proof that the Yuletide Season does not equate to fair weather— so preparation should always be a part of any celebration. This way, even if Christmas comes in a stormy package, you’ll still be able to enjoy it by staying safe and secure.
PAGASA-DOST | NDRRMC | http://blog.noah.dost.gov.ph/2014/02/04/compilation-of-storm-surge-occurrences-in-the-philippines/ | http://www.gov.ph/1981/12/29/proclamation-no-2150-s-1981/
The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) and PAGASA released a list of areas deemed critical as Typhoon Hagupit threatens the Philippines.
As the typhoon approaches, 44 provinces has been put under Alert Level C. These areas may experience 10 to 20 millimeters per hour of rainfall, which translates to heavy to intense rains, bringing heavy damage to agriculture, disruption of electrical power, and threat to travel.
Meanwhile, 6 provinces are expected to experience moderate to heavy rainfall at 5 to 10 millimeters per hour categorized under Alert Level B. Moderate damage to agriculture and risky travel are possible due to wind strength of 30 to 60 kilometers per hour, which is enough to uproot a few large trees and dislodge iron roofing.
Meanwhile, Metro Manila is put under Alert Level A, along with five more provinces. 5 to 10 millimeters per hour or moderate to heavy rainfall is expected with winds reaching up to 30 to 45 kilometers per hour.
Check the complete list below: