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Surrounded by bodies of water, the Philippines sits astride the typhoon belt. Each year, an average of 19 to 20 tropical cyclones or bagyo enters the Philippine Area of Responsibility (PAR), with 8 to 9 of these crossing the landmass.

In 2014, 19 tropical cyclones were recorded to have entered PAR. Two of them were experienced before the year ended, making their respective landfalls in the Visayas and Mindanao areas.

Bagyong Ruby

Source: PAGASA
Source: PAGASA

Since its development from a low pressure area on the last day of November, major weather agencies across the globe closely monitored the potentially dangerous typhoon, later given the international name Hagupit.

Filipinos were alerted against the threat of the approaching cyclone as early as December 2, even if Hagupit was still too far to affect the country.

Entering PAR on December 4, the cyclone was locally named Ruby. Two possible scenarios were presented: for it to 1) make landfall and 2) recurve. Despite hoping for the latter, Ruby crossed the archipelago, hitting the land five times before exiting PAR by the evening of December 10.

Ruby Landfall

During its course on land, Ruby left 18 dead and 916 injured. Over 5 billion pesos in damages to agriculture and infrastructure were also reported.

With the catastrophe endured by Filipinos in November 2013 caused by bagyong Yolanda, the Philippines may have learned its lesson. A lot of it, it seems, were applied during the preparations for Ruby.

No less than President Benigno Aquino III ensured that each agency’s preparations were already in place before Ruby’s arrival. This included quizzing his cabinet secretaries on their efforts in preparation for Ruby, to avoid a repeat of the Yolanda situation. A meeting in Camp Aguinaldo was held to mitigate the impact of Ruby in the following days.

Agencies also layman-ized the terms and phrases used in order to make sure everyone understood and acted accordingly. Continuous dissemination of weather bulletins, the initiation of pre-emptive evacuation, and other precautionary measures were undertaken as early as December 2 when the typhoon was still outside the PAR.

BAGYONG SENIANG

Right after Christmas up until New Year’s, PAGASA weather forecasters dutifully monitored the last tropical cyclone of the year— Seniang.

Dumping heavy rains that caused widespread flooding and landslides, among others, Seniang made landfall four times before leaving the PAR on the 2nd of January.

Seninag Landfalls

Aside from the 65 deaths, 41 injuries and 7 missing persons, Seniang also caused damages of more than 758 million pesos as of press time.

With the death toll significantly higher compared to Ruby, criticisms were thrown at the government for “falling short in its preparations” for the onslaught of bagyong Seniang. However, Malacañang refuted these claims saying that the government’s preparations and response were comprehensive. Citing the latest report from the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Sonny Coloma stated that many of the casualties came from isolated cases of landslide and flashflood incidents, in areas that were not “designated as danger zones.”

LESSONS LEARNED

A weather disturbance often takes a few days before it develops into something massive. State meteorologists monitor this through weather satellites, enabling them to alert the public and give them ample time to prepare before a bagyo strikes.

Over the years, the Filipinos have endured the countless devastating effects of cyclones with rising death tolls and damages headlining the news. Though we can’t stop a cyclone from forming, we can minimize its disastrous impact. By focusing on disaster mitigation and preparedness, we help curb the overwhelming consequences of a calamity.

Arm yourself with some weather wisdom.

What is a thunderstorm? A low pressure area? The most dangerous part of a bagyo? (The eye wall, fyi.) Knowing these relevant weather terms help us understand forecasts better, which help us prepare for the coming weather disturbances.

Monitor weather updates.

Nowadays, information comes easily through various platforms—the television, radio, and the Internet. With real-time updates and lead-time forecasts, disaster preparedness is within our reach.

Have an emergency kit.

We can’t stress this enough. Emergency kits save lives. Prepare emergency kits ahead of time and store them in accessible areas so you can easily find them when the need arises.

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Make emergency plans with your family.

When disaster strikes, family members may get separated. Make sure the whole family is prepared and informed on crucial information, such as emergency exits, meet-up points, and ways to contact each other. In line with this, it’s also important to know the emergency hotlines in your area.

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Identify the threats on your property.

Is your area prone to flooding? Can a storm surge reach your house? Is your area mountainous and prone to landslides? If you are living in a hazard-prone area, evacuate as early as possible. Otherwise, stay inside the house and keep calm.

Store enough food and water.

The movements of tropical cyclones are not definite. Some move speedily; others start fast then slow down later on. Business operations may take time to resume after a disaster so better make sure your supplies will last for a few days.

Heed the advice of local authorities.

If you’re asked to evacuate, do so and be sure to follow instructions. Before leaving, turn off all utilities and secure your home. After the disaster has passed, return home only when officials have deemed it safe.

Are you ready for future disasters? Be informed, prepared, and safe! See below the names that will be used for tropical cyclones that will enter the PAR this 2015

Bagyo

On the last day of this year, the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astonomical Services Administration (PAGASA) continues to monitorTropical Storm Seniang with international name Jangmi. It was locatedat 245 kilometers south southeast of Cuyo, Palawan at 9:00 AM today.
It has weakened into a tropical depression with maximum sustained winds of 55 kilometers per hour.

With its continuous movement in a west-southwest direction at 13 kilometers per hour, Seniang is expected to leave the Philippine Area of Responsibility (PAR) on Friday, January 2, 2015.

Public Storm Warning Signal Number 1 is up over Palawan where winds of 30 to 60 kilometers per hour are expected. Residents are alerted against possible flash floods and landslides.

The combined effect of the northeast monsoon or amihan and the winds
associated with Seniang will bring rough to very rough sea conditions in the seaboards of Northern, Central and Southern Luzon and Visayas. Fishing boats and other small seacraft are still prohibited from venturing out into the mentioned seas.

Palawan will experience rains with gusty winds. Cloudy skies will dump light to moderate rain showers and thunderstorms over Visayas, Bicol Region and the provinces of Quezon, Mindoro and Marinduque. Metro Manila and the rest of Luzon will experience light rains, while Mindanao will have improved weather. Still, partly cloudy to cloudy skies with isolated rain showers or thunderstorms are expected.

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PAGASA issues special weather outlook for New Year

Based on the outlook, rains will continue on the first day of 2015. Seniang may bring rains with gusty winds over Palawan, while the Bicol Region, CALABARZON, Western Visayas and the provinces of Mindoro, Marinduque and Romblon will have cloudy skies with light to moderate
rain showers and thunderstorms. Metro Manila and Central Luzon will be cloudy with light rains and the rest of the country will have a generally fair weather aside from the isolated cases of rain showers or thunderstorms.

Changes may still occur depending on the weather systems that will prevail within the PAR. All are advised to monitor updates.

OUTLOOK

At 4:45 AM today, Tropical Storm Seniang made landfall over Sibonga, Cebu with maximum sustained winds of 65 kilometers per hour and gustiness of up to 80 kilometers per hour. At 7:00 AM, it made another landfall over Guihulngan, Negros Oriental and at 8:00 AM, it was located in the vicinity of La Libertad, Negros Oriental.

Public Storm Warning Signals are still up over some areas of Visayas and Mindanao.

5AM Seninag Dec 30

Stormy weather will be experienced over Central Visayas and the provinces of Negros Occidental and Guimaras. The rest of Western Visayas and the provinces of Leyte, Misamis Oriental, Misamis Occidental, Surigao del Norte, Agusan del Norte, Camotes Island, Zamboanga del Norte and Camihuin will have rains with gusty winds.

Bicol Region and Samar provinces will be cloudy with moderate to heavy rain showers and thunderstorms. Residents are alerted against possible flash floods and landslides. Metro Manila, CALABARZON, MIMAROPA and the rest of Mindanao will experience cloudy skies with light to moderate rain showers and thunderstorms, while the rest of Luzon will be cloudy with light rains.

Travel for small seacraft is risky in the seaboards of Northern and Central Luzon, the eastern seaboard of Southern Luzon, Visayas and the northern and eastern seaboards of Mindanao.

According to PAGASA Weather Forecaster Buddy Javier, Seniang’s current intensity is capable of generating ocean waves that may reach up to 5 meters. Javier added that it is expected to leave the Philippine Area of Responsibility (PAR) by Friday, January 2, 2015 if it maintains its speed and direction.

Free rides on Rizal Day

Today, December 30, marks the death anniversary of our national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal. In line with this, LRT and MRT stations will be giving free rides for commuters. See image below for reference:

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Prior to making landfall, Seniang intensified into Tropical Storm category this morning with maximum sustained winds of 65 kph near the center and gustiness of up to 80 kph. The storm continues to move in a west-northwest direction at 11 kph.

PAGASA Weather Forecaster Jori Loiz says Seniang hit Baranggay Bakulin in Hinatuan, Surigao del Sur at 3:45 am today. The storm will move towards Agusan del Norte before traversing Bohol Sea, he added.

As it continues to cross the archipelago, more provinces in Visayas and Mindanao are placed under Public Storm Warning Signals:

PSWS 11AM

Areas under Signal #2 will experience stormy weather whereas rains with gusty winds will be felt over the provinces under signal #1. Residents living near low-lying and mountainous areas are alerted against possible flashfloods and landslides.

Meanwhile, Cagayan Valley, Cordillera and Ilocos Regions, as well as Central Luzon, can expect cloudy skies with light rains. Metro Manila and the rest of Luzon will be partly cloudy to at times cloudy with isolated light rains.

PAGASA has also released gale warnings over the eastern seaboards of Luzon and Visayas, where rough to very rough sea conditions are expected due to the surge of the northeast monsoon and tropical storm Seniang. The latest weather bulletin also shows the possibility of ocean waves reaching up to 5 meters, making sea travel very risky also in the northern and eastern seaboards of Mindanao.

Residents of Palawan will be experiencing a stormy new year. Loiz states if the storm maintains its current speed and direction, it will exit the Philippine Area of Responsibility by January 1 or 2.