Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.
By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 3:49 PM GMT on December 04, 2006
The death toll in the Philippine Islands from Typhoon Durian (called Typhoon Reming in the Philippines) now stands at 1226 dead or missing, according to Philippine disaster officials, and is certain to go higher as rescue workers continue to recover bodies from mudslides that buried at least eight villages at the foot of Mayon Volcano. Durian is now the third most deadly tropical cyclone to strike the Philippines since 1946, according to a list maintained at typhoon2000.ph. The worst storm, Tropical Storm Thelma, killed 5,100-8,000 people in 1991 when torrential rains caused flash floods on over-logged hills surrounding Ormoc City in Leyte. A river flowing through the city burst its banks, and drowned over 1/4 of the residents. The second most deadly was Typhoon Ike of September 1, 1984, which killed 1300-3000 due to flooding and mudslides from torrential rains. Like Durian, Ike was a 145-mph Category 4 typhoon at landfall, but Thelma never even made it to typhoon status. The Philippines have also suffered calamitous mudslides and flooding from heavy rains associated with La Niņa events, as occurred in February 2006 when 3000 people died on Leyte Island. The worst flooding disaster ever to affect the Philippines that I could find record of was the typhoon of November 6, 1885, which killed 10,000 when a huge storm surge roared ashore on the Tiburon Peninsula. Durian has surpassed Tropical Storm Bilis as the deadliest tropical cyclone to affect the globe in 2006. Bilis killed 662 people in July, primarily due to severe flooding in China.
Figure 1. Rainfall estimates from NASA's TRMM satellite on November 29, 2006, as Typhoon Durian approached the Philippines. Durian brought 8-12 inches of rain along its path.
The region Durian hit has been visited by at least one other typhoon of similar intensity. On November 25, 1987, Typhoon Nina hit the Mayon Volcano region as a category 5 super typhoon. A pressure of 909.5 mb was measured at Legaspi, the lowest pressure ever recorded in the Philippines. Mudslides and flash floods roaring down the Mayon Volcano killed 600-1100 people.
The damage caused by Durian has been extreme. Nearly 300,000 homes have been destroyed or damaged. Damage to agriculture has been exceptionally heavy, as well. Total damage estimates are at $643 million, making Durian by far the most costly typhoon in Philippine history. The previous most costly typhoons did damage in the $100-$200 million dollar range.
Durian sideswiped southern Vietnam Monday as a weak Category 1 typhoon, but its winds were strong enough to kill 49 people there, and damage or destroyed 58,000 homes. Durian is expected to become a rare ocean-to-ocean tropical cyclone when it crosses the Malay Peninsula Wednesday and enters the Indian Ocean in the Bay of Bengal. Dry air is expected to keep the storm below typhoon strength for the remainder of its life.
I'll update this blog Wednesday afternoon, when the new head of the National Hurricane Center will be announced.
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