Typhoon Bopha hits the Philippines at Cat 5 strength; at least 40 killed
Typhoon Bopha slammed ashore on the Philippine island of Mindanao at 4:45 am local time on Tuesday morning as a Category 5 storm with 160 mph winds. Bopha is the third Category 5 typhoon to affect the Western Pacific this year, and the strongest typhoon ever recorded to hit Mindanao, which rarely sees strong typhoons due to its position close to the Equator. The death toll from the powerful storm already stands at 40, and is expected to rise. While passage over land has weakened Bopha to a Category 2 storm, the tropical cyclone is spreading torrential rains over a large portion of the southern Philippine Islands, and this will cause serious flooding problems today. The island of Mindanao is highly vulnerable to flood disasters from tropical cyclones; last year's Tropical Storm Washi, which hit Mindanao on December 16, 2011 with 60 mph winds and torrential rains, killed over 1500 people. Before hitting the Philippines, Typhoon Bopha brought a storm surge estimated at ten feet to the island nation of Palau, where near-total destruction is being reported in some coastal areas.
Figure 1. Super Typhoon Bopha as seen from the International Space Station on December 2, 2012. At the time, Bopha had top sustained winds of 150 - 155 mph. Image credit: NASA.
Bopha: the 2nd most southerly Category 5 typhoon on record
Bopha, a Cambodian word for flower or a girl, became a tropical depression unusually close to the Equator, at 3.6°N latitude. Tropical cyclones rarely form so close to the Equator, because they cannot leverage the Earth's rotation to get themselves spinning. Bopha became the second most southerly Category 5 typhoon on Monday at 7.4°N latitude. The record is held by Typhoon Louise of 1964, which was a Category 5 storm at 7.3°N.
Video 1. Scenes of wind damage and flooding from Typhoon Bopha's landfall in the Philippines yesterday.