Super Typhoon Yutu killed one person and caused major damage to homes, businesses, and schools in the U.S. territory of the northern Mariana Islands last week. Making landfall on October 24 with winds of almost 180 mph, equal to a Category 5 hurricane, it’s the strongest tropical cyclone to hit U.S. soil, according to the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The storm has lost some steam since then, but is still dangerous as it heads westward on a collision course with east Asia.
Saturday morning President Donald Trump declared a major disaster in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), allowing for a range of federal assistance for recovery as thousands of Saipan and Tinian residents had no access to drinking and tap water at the time. This came a day after U.S. Health Secretary Alex Azar declared a public health emergency for the CNMI, which involves sending more than 50 medical and public health personnel, along with medical supplies and equipment, to the islands. Saipan International Airport (IATA code: SPN) remains closed to commercial airlines because of damages, but military and other aircraft for humanitarian reasons started using the airport last Friday.
Now Yutu is closing in on the northern Philippines. PAGASA, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration, have raised storm warning levels earlier today from one to two (out of five). Reuters reports that authorities in the provinces of Isabela and Cagayan started moving residents in coastal towns to evacuation centers, while the mountainous Cordillera region was put on red alert for landslides. Storm surge and flooding are also imminent threats.
As of 5 p.m. local time on Monday (5 a.m. Eastern in the U.S.), the storm was about 250 miles east of the Luzon region, where half the 105 million people in the Philippines live, and is producing winds of 104 mph (Category 2 hurricane range) with gusts of nearly 130 mph. Yutu, known locally as Rosita, is the 18th typhoon to hit the Philippines this year and comes six weeks after the monstrous Typhoon Mangkut caused deadly landslides and damaged hundreds of millions of dollars worth of crops.
School classes were suspended in at least five provinces, and fishermen in Luzon and the eastern seaboard have been advised not to go to sea, with storm surges of ten feet possible in six provinces. All boat services in the port city of Batangas, about 52 miles south of Manila, have been suspended.
Typhoon Yutu is forecast to make landfall in the northern Philippines early Tuesday local time, between four and eight o’clock. Then it will slow down a bit, move into the South China Sea, and possibly make landfall east of Hong Kong later this week.