Several storms and typhoons have been ravaging our islands in succession since October, following a westerly route with Catanduanes as the first land to be hit, followed by Albay, Camarines Sur and Norte, then Quezon Province. Storms get their power from the sea. As they proceed further inland, they lose strength, so that by the time they reach the western areas of Luzon, they are not as strong as they had been when they first hit Catanduanes island.
Last Thursday, “Ulysses” hit Catanduanes with the usual devastating fury of a new typhoon, but this time it appeared to have kept its destructive force even as it crossed Quezon Province and Central Luzon, its strong winds and strong rains falling over a wide area that included Metro Manila and Southern Tagalog.
Unusually heavy rains fell in Metro Manila, with Marikina appearing to have suffered the worst floods which inundated most of the city Thursday night. Thus Friday’s newspapers were filled with photos of families escaping to their rooftops as floodwaters reached up to their roof eaves.
On the same day, newspapers carried reports of a research study in Japan on North Atlantic hurricanes from 1967 to 2015. Typically, in the past, storms begin to lose strength upon hitting land. In the last 50 years, however, the study found, storms have kept their strength far longer even over land. Great destruction is no longer confined to coastal areas; it now continues far inland.
The researchers also found a link to sea temperatures. When sea surface temperature was higher, the storms stayed stronger on land for longer periods. The destruction is thus a direct result of rising world temperatures, caused by unceasing carbon emissions from the world’s industries.
This may explain why “Ulysses” caused so much destruction with its heavy rains in Metro Manila, with Marikina appearing to have suffered the worst floods. Over 40,000 houses were submerged when the Marikina Rivers water level rose to as high as 22 meters b y 11 a.m. Thursday, surpassing the record 21.5-meter level set in September, 2009, when typhoon “Ondoy” hit Metro Manila.
Thousands of houses went underwater last Thusday in barangays Nangkla, Tumana, and Malanday. Marikina is Metro Manila’s catch basin, with many rivers flowing into the Marikiina River Basin. So many thousands were thus stranded on their rooftops without food or extra clothes, awaiting rescue by boat or air. Even the Marikina City Hall got flooded.
Low-lying areas in Pasig City, Mandaluyong City and other parts of Metro Manila also suffered from flooding. The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority reported nearly 20,000 were evacuated from their homes all over the region. A concrete wall collapsed in Manila, trapping 58 people in their shanties. Unprecedented flooding was also reported in Rodriguez, Cainta, and other towns of Rizal province.
“Ulysses” thus appears to be part of the changing weather all over the world, directly related to climate change. The big industrial nations like China and Japan have announced plans for fundamental changes in their industries to lessen their impact on world weather but it will be decades before we will see major changes. In the meantime, we must step up our own readiness for the increasingly powerful storms and typhoons that will be coming our way.