Two years back, the strongest storm to ever make landfall - Typhoon Hainan, had devastated the Philippines. It had wiped out entire communities and more than 7,000 people had lost their lives.
So, when Typhoon Koppu started heading towards the island chain last weekend, the country went into alert. More than 60,000 people were evacuated from their homes. Residents were asked to move to higher ground. All flights were canceled. The country's President, Benigno Aquino, went on television asking people to not panic and take precautions.
Fortunately, all these preparations seem to have helped. Koppu turned out to be the second strongest storm to hit the country this year, with wind speeds of 130 miles per hour. But the death toll is considerably lower, with 50 known casualties. Farmlands have been flooded and the mountainous regions are seeing landslides.
The storm is much weaker now, and after drenching the country in rain, is headed towards Japan.
What Is A Typhoon?
Typhoon is just another name for tropical storms. When the winds in a storm reach at least 74 miles an hour, it is called a “hurricane” in the Americas, a “cyclone” near the Indian peninsula, and a “typhoon” in the eastern Pacific.
They are all children of the tropics, and hence called “tropical storms.” This is how they are born: trade winds from the north meet those from the south and cause disturbances. These disturbances gain energy from the warm tropical waters, causing what is called a depression – an area of low air pressure, where the warm air has risen up. This movement of air causes storms with winds up to 38 miles an hour.
As the depression moves over water, it gains in strength. When the winds are above 39 miles an hour, it is called a tropical storm. This is when it gets a name. It keeps moving over the oceans, gathering strength, gathering speed.
Why Is Philippines So Prone?
Did you know the Philippines is the largest archipelago in the Pacific Ocean, made up of over 7,100 islands!
The country is especially prone to typhoons and sees an average of 20 storms each year. One reason for this is that the island chains sit in a particularly warm pool of water with temperatures of 82 degrees F (28 degrees C), which is ideal for typhoon formation. As more water evaporates into the atmosphere, the storms pick up strength.
As the strength of a storm increases, it whips up the water into huge waves. These waves, known as storm surges, create havoc on land even before the eye of the storm hits land. The storm surges from hurricanes Sandy and Katrina in the U.S flooded all low-lying areas with water.
Since the country has an unfortunate geographic location, the best it can do to minimize the impact is to have efficient warning systems and evacuations procedures.