This is not the Christmas gift people in the Philippines were hoping for. Super Typhoon Nock-Ten slammed into the eastern parts of Luzon on Christmas Day with 155-mile-per-hour sustained winds, becoming the strongest such storm to make landfall there so late in the year.
This is not the first typhoon to hit the disaster-prone nation on Christmas, but it is the most intense, by a considerable margin. Previous Christmas typhoons were Category 2 or 3 storms, according to Weather Underground, whereas Nock-Ten (known as Typhoon Nina in the Philippines) hit the equivalent of a high-end Category 4 storm.
Nock-Ten put a damper on the holiday in Asia’s largest Catholic nation. According to the Associated Press, one governor offered a local delicacy made with roast pig at evacuation shelters to entice residents to evacuate vulnerable areas.
The storm’s first landfall took place Sunday night, local time, in Catanduanes province, where strong winds and rain knocked out power and communications. Several feet of storm surge flooding likely also occurred along the shoreline there.
After Catanduanes, the typhoon roared westward while weakening over the mountainous southern parts of the Philippines’ main island of Luzon. The storm’s center may come close to the capital of Manila, before moving out to sea toward China.
According to hurricane scientist Philip Kotzbach, only 2 Northwest Pacific tropical cyclones have been as strong so late in the season: Hester in 1952 and Susan in 1963. Super Typhoon Nock-Ten is the most intense Christmas Day storm on record in the Northwest Pacific Basin.
Due to interaction with land, the storm is expected to have weakened to a Category 1 or 2-equivalent typhoon by the time it passes over or south of Manila on Monday, local time.
Officials warned of storm surges in coastal villages, flash floods and landslides, and asked villagers to evacuate to safer grounds. In addition, strong winds, flooding from heavy rains and a storm surge is a concern in Manila, particularly since the city of nearly 13 million is low-lying and sees floods during more ordinary heavy rainstorms.
James Reynolds (@EarthUncutTV) December 25, 2016
Christmas is the biggest holiday in the Philippines, which has Asia’s largest Roman Catholic population, making it difficult for officials to get people to heed their storm warnings. With many refusing to leave high-risk communities, some officials said they decided to carry out forced evacuations.
Gov. Miguel Villafuerte of Camarines Sur province, which is in the typhoon’s expected path, offered roast pig, a popular Christmas delicacy locally called “lechon,” in evacuation centers to entice villagers to move to emergency shelters.”I know it’s Christmas … but this is a legit typhoon,” Villafuerte tweeted on Christmas Eve. “Please evacuate, we’ll be having lechon at evacuation centers.”
UW-Madison CIMSS (@UWCIMSS) December 25, 2016
The Philippines averages about 15 to 20 typhoons per year, and suffered a horrific blow in 2013 when Super Typhoon Haiyan, one of the most powerful tropical cyclones on record anywhere in the world, wiped out the city of Tacloban. That storm left about 7,000 people dead or missing and displaced more than 5 million.
Additional reporting by the Associated Press.