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Ambo strengthens into severe tropical storm

Acor Arceo
Aside from areas in Eastern Visayas, parts of Bicol are also placed under Signal No. 1 due to Severe Tropical Storm Ambo (Vongfong) on Wednesday afternoon, May 13

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Satellite image of Severe Tropical Storm Ambo (Vongfong) as of May 13, 2020, 5:30 pm. Image from NOAA

MANILA, Philippines – Ambo (Vongfong) intensified from a tropical storm into a severe tropical storm on Wednesday afternoon, May 13, as it continued to move toward the Eastern Visayas-Bicol area.

In an online briefing past 5 pm on Wednesday, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said Ambo now has maximum winds of 95 kilometers per hour (km/h) from the previous 85 km/h and gustiness of up to 115 km/h from the previous 105 km/h.

It could still strengthen into a typhoon in the next 24 hours, warned PAGASA. (READ: FAST FACTS: Tropical cyclones, rainfall advisories)

At the moment, Ambo is located 315 kilometers east of Borongan City, Eastern Samar. It has been moving at a generally slow pace, currently at just 10 km/h as it heads west northwest.

More areas were placed under Signal No. 1 as of Wednesday afternoon. These are:

  • Sorsogon
  • Ticao Island
  • Catanduanes
  • southern part of Albay (Oas, Tabaco, Ligao City, Pio Duran, Guinobatan, Malilipot, Jovellar, Camalig, Santo Domingo, Bacacay, Rapu-rapu, Daraga, Legazpi City, Manito)
  • Northern Samar
  • northern part of Samar (Calbayog, Sta Margarita, Gandara, Matuguinao, Pagsanghan, San Jorge, San Jose de Buan, Tarangnan, Catbalogan City, Jiabong, Motiong, San Sebastian, Paranas, Hinabangan)
  • northern part of Eastern Samar (Jipapad, Arteche, Maslog, Oras, San Policarpio, Dolores, Can-avid, Taft, Sulat, San Julian, Borongan City)

PAGASA said strong to gale force winds may hit Northern Samar and the northern parts of Eastern Samar and Samar beginning Thursday afternoon, May 14, and Sorsogon, Ticao Island, Catanduanes, and the southern part of Albay starting Friday morning, May 15. (READ: Why is it now called tropical cyclone ‘wind’ – and not ‘warning’ – signals?)

In terms of rainfall, this is PAGASA’s outlook:

Wednesday, May 13

Scattered light to moderate rain, with at times heavy rain during thunderstorms

  • Eastern Visayas

Thursday, May 14

Moderate to heavy rain

  • Eastern Visayas
  • Catanduanes
  • Albay
  • Sorsogon
  • Masbate

Heavy rain from Ambo might cause floods, landslides, and even lahar from Mayon Volcano. The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology issued an advisory on Wednesday, warning that rainfall from Ambo might mix with volcanic deposits from Mayon’s 2018 eruption, which could result in lahar or volcanic mudflows.

Rough seas are also being experienced in the eastern seaboard of Bicol and the northern and eastern seaboards of Eastern Visayas on Wednesday. Travel is risky.

PAGASA Weather Specialist Loriedin de la Cruz said in the briefing that Ambo remains likely to make landfall in Bicol between Thursday evening and Friday morning. The province where it could make landfall has yet to be specified.

Forecast track of Severe Tropical Storm Ambo (Vongfong) as of May 13, 2020, 5 pm. Image from PAGASA


Ambo is the Philippines’ first tropical cyclone for 2020. The country gets an average of 20 tropical cyclones per year. (READ: LIST: PAGASA’s names for tropical cyclones in 2020)

In PAGASA’s climate outlook, it gave the following estimates for the number of tropical cyclones in the next 6 months:

  • May – 1 or 2
  • June – 1 or 2
  • July – 2 to 4
  • August – 2 or 3
  • September – 2 or 3
  • October – 2 or 3

While bracing for Ambo, the Philippines is also combating the coronavirus outbreak. The number of COVID-19 cases in the country climbed to 11,618 on Wednesday. –

Acor Arceo

Acor Arceo is the head of copy and editorial standards at Rappler. Trained in both online and TV newsrooms, Acor supervises Rappler’s coverage of disasters, handles the business desk, and ensures consistency in editorial standards across all sections.