How well do you understand Public Storm Warning Signals? Find out what they mean so you can be better prepared for the next tropical cyclone.

When a strong tropical cyclone or “bagyo” enters the PAR (Philippine Area of Responsibility) and heads toward our landmass, PAGASA issues a PSWS or a Public Storm Warning Signal, classified into numbers 1, 2, 3 and 4.

Filipinos often hear of these warnings but many of us still don’t know how these work. Typhoon Glenda, with international name Ramassun, was the latest tropical cyclone that hit Philippine landmass last July. Some areas in Luzon, including MIMAROPA and the Bicol Region were put under signal #3. Some people were wondering, “Signal number 3 na raw pero bakit ang init- init pa rin sa amin?”

(Source: Merriam-Webster Dictionary Online)
(Source: Merriam-Webster Dictionary Online)

PSWS serve as warnings, and should not be taken as an indication of the present situation. Because preparedness is the key to any disaster, PAGASA provides these storm warning signals ahead of time. Take for example, PSWS #3—in this case, the storm is expected to arrive within 18 hours after the PSWS has been raised.

Another misconception about PSWS is that it’s about all about the rain—its intensity and amount. Remember that PAGASA measures tropical cyclones based on the strength of the winds.

Refer to the list below to find out how PSWS are classified according to windspeeds and the time frames they’re expected to arrive:

PSWS #4 : Winds of more than 185 kph is expected in at least 12 hours.

PSWS #3 : Winds of 101-185 kph is expected in at least 18 hours.

PSWS #2 : Winds of 61-100 kph is expected in at least 24 hours.

PSWS #1 : Winds of 30-60 kph is expected in at least 36 hours.

According to PAGASA, tropical cyclones are constantly in motion, thus, PSWS may be updraded or downgraded as they inch closer to specific locations. Storm signals are raised in areas based on the intensity, size of circulation, and the forecasted direction or movement of the tropical storm or typhoon.

UntitledPotential impacts of the winds:





PSWS describe what is going to happen, not what is already happening. Residents should use this opportunity to prepare for the coming storm and continuously monitor weather updates.

Source: PAGASA

Photo credit: Cristina Evidor

According to Philippine folklore, whenever this weird weather phenomenon happens, a mythical creature called tikbalang (a half-human, half horse trickster that hangs out in the forests and mountains, leading travelers astray) is being wed. This sort of belief is, however, is not unique to our country. Across the globe, it is generally believed that this sort of bipolar weather indicates the wedding day or birthday of a trickster figure (e.g. witch, monkey, fox, etc.). That is why on these characters’ special day, the weather pulls its own prank on us, humans.

But what is the real scientific explanation behind this occurrence? We get the lowdown from none other than the country’s weather expert, PAGASA.

The Truth behind the Myth

The Philippines has two seasons: the Hot and Dry Season experienced from March to May, and the Rainy Season that comes in from June to September.

According to PAGASA, we can experience both sunshine and rain at the same time during the Hot and Dry Season. Called sun showers, this weather phenomenon most likely occurs in the months of March, April and May. This happens when the ground surface heats up, resulting to a vertical movement of warm air. This forms clouds that bring precipitation while the sun is at a 30-degree angle from the earth.

So the next time you feel both the sun and raindrops on your face, think about how fascinating weather works—almost as intriguing as a mythical creature’s wedding day.

Source: PAGASA |