Sunday, August 12, 2012

Helen intensifies into tropical storm, storm signal no. 1 up in Northern Luzon

By: Joseph Ubalde,

MANILA, Philippines - (UPDATE 2 - 11:56 a.m.) "Helen," the eight storm to visit the country this year, has intensified further from a tropical depression into a tropical storm as it threatens to bring more rains to Luzon.

According to the latest advisory from the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical Astronomical Services Administration, tropical storm Helen maintains its northwest path and is expected to pull the southwest monsoon or habagat back into the country.

With the storm’s upgrade, PAGASA hoisted Storm Signal 1 over Northern Luzon particularly Cagayan, Isabela, Kalinga, Apayao, Batanes, and Calayan Group of Islands.

These areas can expect winds of 30-60 kilometers per hour in at least 36 hours. The winds are powerful enough to cause some damage to trees and light houses.

Helen was last tracked 550 km East North East of Casiguran, Aurora. It has maximum sustained winds of up to 65 kph as it travels at 13 kph west northwest.

While not expected to make landfall on mainland Luzon, the storm will pull thehabagat into the western section of the country.

More rains

According to PAGASA, Helen will be packing heavy to torrential rains or up to 15-35 mm per hour within its 400 km diameter.

It added that several parts of Luzon have already been affected by Helen’s massive rainbands.

In Central and Southern Luzon, “intermittent light to moderate rains (2.5-7.5 mm/hr) already affecting the Bicol region, while “frequent moderate” to heavy rains (7.5-10mm/hr) will be felt in the evening over the following provinces and areas: Camarines Provinces,Quezon province,Rizal,Bulacan,Pampanga,Laguna,Cavite,Batangas,Mindoro,Bataan,Zambales and Metro Manila.

With the soil still saturated with rain water from the Habagat last week, flashfloods and landslides are imminent.

More than twice the average rainfall for August was unleashed in just three hours at the height of the habagat last week.

The torrential rains and widespread floods they unleashed, which inundated more than 80 percent of Metro Manila and also left large areas in surrounding regions underwater, have left at least 92 dead, most from drowning, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council reported Monday, with close to half a million of the more than 3.4 million persons affected still packed in evacuation centers.

Cut off

Although flooding in Metro Manila has largely subsided, hundreds of thousands remained cut off by neck-deep floods in low-lying farming towns north of the capital that are natural catch basins.

"These are the people we are most worried about," Office of Civil Defense head Benito Ramos told AFP. "We have not yet fully recovered and here comes another storm."

"We will continue with our alert levels until we see the full effects of this approaching weather disturbance," he added.

In Malabon, a coastal district facing Manila Bay, people trickled back to clean up their mud-streaked homes Monday amid warnings to be prepared for fresh evacuations.

"Many have returned to their homes to rebuild, but sadly they may have to leave again if there are more floods because of this new storm," said Roderick Tongol, head of Malabon's disaster response unit.

"We are on heightened alert, and we have placed all our rescue teams on standby ahead of this new storm," he said.

Virtually all of Malabon's 21 villages were swamped by neck-deep floods at the height of the torrential rains and some 1,000 people still remained in evacuation centers Monday.