Strengthening Typhoon Hagupit May Threaten the Philippines | The Weather …

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Super Typhoon Hagupit has formed in the tropical western Pacific Ocean and is undergoing a period of explosive and rapid intensification. It may pose a significant danger to the Philippines later this week, but uncertainty remains high in its future track.

(MORE: Hurricane Central | 2014 Hurricane Season Recap)

Hagupit made its closest approach to the Yap Islands Wednesday evening, local time (15 hours ahead of U.S. EST), passing about 60 miles to the south of the islands. Given its relatively small wind field, only tropical storm-force wind gusts (peak gust to 43 mph) were recorded at Yap International Airport as of late Wednesday evening.

A few lingering strong wind gusts, dangerous surf, some flooding along windward coastlines and local flash flooding are possible in the Yap Islands through Thursday morning, local time.

Hagupit began to undergo a period of rapid intensification late Wednesday morning (U.S. East Coast time). According to the U.S. military’s Joint Typhoon Warning Center, Hagupit became the equivalent of a Category 4 storm as of 2 p.m. EST Wednesday, with maximum sustained winds of 150 mph — a sharp increase from 115 mph just six hours earlier.

The rapid intensification is the result of impressive upper-level “outflow channels,” basically air flow in the upper levels of the atmosphere spreading apart, or away from, the center of Hagupit. Those outflow channels near the top of the typhoon force air to rise more vigorously within its core circulation, allowing the central pressure to plummet and the typhoon’s winds to increase.

The center will be passing north of the Republic of Palau Thursday morning, local time (Wednesday afternoon and evening, mainland U.S. time).

Closest to the center of Hagupit may be Kayangel, a cluster of three atolls making up the northernmost state of Palau. However, given the track and the relatively small wind field, only tropical storm force wind gusts, minor coastal flooding and high surf, are expected. Less impacts would be expected to the south in Koror, the more heavily populated state of the republic.


Philippines Threat?

Hagupit will begin to slow its forward speed after departing Palau later Thursday. Hagupit is expected to maintain super typhoon status (150 mph winds or higher), peaking as the equivalent of a Category 5 storm.

Given its more southern path compared to most other typhoons so far this year, a continued west-northwest track would place the central Philippines in the threat zone, including areas still recovering from Super Typhoon Haiyan about 13 months ago, the most intense tropical cyclone at landfall in history.

That is certainly worrisome. However, it remains too early to call with certainty whether Hagupit will even directly affect the Philippines at all.

There appear to be two track scenarios, representing the extreme difference in potential impacts at this time.

1) Little impact: Hagupit stalls just east of the Philippines late this week, then drifts slowly north into early next week. Increasing wind shear, thanks to a surge of cooler, drier near-surface north to northeast winds from the Asian continent and the southern fringe of the jet stream would quickly weaken the cyclone. In this scenario, Hagupit may have little direct impact in the Philippines, except for localized flash flooding from outer rainbands and high surf along the east coast of the archipelago.

2) Severe impact: Hagupit slows down, but continues its west-northwest track into the Philippines, potentially still as a formidable typhoon this weekend. Impacts including significant coastal flooding due to storm surge and battering waves, as well as destructive winds could be felt in some Haiyan-affected areas. In addition, if Hagupit moves slowly, torrential rainfall would become a major threat, with life-threatening flash flooding and mudslides possible. 

Of course, some combination of both scenarios could also occur, with Hagupit first making landfall, but then also drifting slowly north and weakening.

(FORECAST: Tacloban | Manila)

Check back with us at and The Weather Channel for the latest on Super Typhoon Hagupit and its potential impacts.

MORE ON WEATHER.COM: Super Typhoon Haiyan – Aerial Photographs (Nov. 2013)

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