Tornado-like Odette strongest in 25 years
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Batanes experienced its strongest typhoon "in years" after Typhoon Odette (international codename Usagi) hit the province Saturday, September 21, officials said.
The typhoon devastated crops, uprooted or cut trees and destroyed homes in the province, according to Batanes Rep Dina Abad in a statement Saturday.
The province had no electricity as early as Friday evening, September 20, due to damaged power lines, while water distribution pipes were also damaged.
Abad told Rappler: "Strong winds and rain came at around 10 am (Friday, September 20) until this morning. The electric coop's distribution system has been damaged. Houses made of light materials destroyed. May mga punong bumagsak, mga pananim na nasira." (Trees fell down, crops destroyed.)
"Kahit humina na ang ulan at hangin, wala pa ring lumalabas sa bahay," Abad added. (Even as the winds die down, people are not leaving their homes.)
"This is the strongest typhoon to hit Batanes in 25 years," she said in a statement released later in the day.
Abad's statement quoted Washington Post blog describing Usagi (the international name for Odette) as "the strongest storm on Earth" in 2013. "It is now equivalent to a category 5 hurricane," the blog said.
Odette made landfall over the town of Itbayat at around 7 am Saturday, packing maximum winds of up to 215 km/h near the center and gusting up to 250 km/h.
"The winds are very strong. I cannot even go out now," Batanes governor Vicente Gato earlier told dzBB radio in Manila. "Many trees have been uprooted and we have no electricity," he said.
The typhoon also forced the suspension of classes in Benguet and Baguio City Saturday.
Odette has since weakened, and is still on track to hit Hong Kong and the Chinese coast.
No electricity, water
Local officials told stories about the typhoon's fury in Batanes.
"The strong winds spawned waves as high as 6-8 meters, sinking fishing boats and destroying fishing ports," the statement quoted Sabtang Mayor Max Babalo.
"The ferocious winds of Odette swirled with fury like a tornado unroofing houses, especially those built of light materials and flattening crops and plants along its path. Many residents were forced to abandon their houses at the height of the typhoon," the statement said, quoting Itbayat Mayor Reuel Ibanez.
There are no reports yet of injuries or casualties as of 2 pm; A thorough assessment has been difficult due to the typhoon's ongoing effects as it moves away from the area, said Abad.
The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Center (NDRRMC) issued its highest alert, with flooding recorded in four regions in Luzon, while several roads and bridges were rendered impassable by overflowing rivers or landslides.
Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte said the national government is monitoring the situation.
"We are making sure that ‘yung mga dinadaanan naman po nitong bagyong Odette ay natutuunan din po natin ng kaukulang pansin," she said in an interview on dzRB.
(We are making sure that the areas affected by Typhoon Odette are given proper attention.)
The US Navy's Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC) has labeled Odette (Usagi) as a super typhoon. Based on their data, Odette was packing sustained winds of 240 km/h (150 mi/h) with gusts of nearly 300 km/h, making it the equivalent of a strong Category 4 Atlantic hurricane.
The Philippine weather bureau has no official "super typhoon" category, but raises the storm warning signal number 4 for typhoons carrying maximum sustained winds of more than 186 km/h.
PAGASA last raised storm signal number 4 back in August 2011, during Typhoon Mina (Nanmadol). – Rappler.com