Fengshen: deadliest Western Pacific storm in 17 years

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 3:19 PM GMT on June 24, 2008

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Typhoon Fengshen may be the deadliest Pacific tropical cyclone since 1991. The death toll in the Philippines now stands at 598 dead or missing on land, with another 800 missing and presumed dead in the wake of the sinking of the ferry MV Princess of Stars. Fengshen (the Mandarin Chinese name for the God of Wind) made landfall over the northern Philippines Saturday, triggering rains and landslides that destroyed 34,000 buildings and damaged 53,000 more, causing an estimated $100 million in damage. According to typhoon2000.com, the Philippines' deadliest tropical cyclones were Tropical Storm Thelma of 1991 (5101 dead) and Typhoon Ike of 1984 (1363 dead). Left off the list was Tropical Depression Winnie, which killed 1404 people in the Philippines November 29-20, 2004. It appears likely that the death toll from Fengshen will exceed Winnie's, making Fengshen the deadliest Western Pacific tropical cyclone since 1991's Tropical Storm Thelma.


Figure 1.The ferry MV Princess of Stars. Image credit: Sulpicio Lines.

The ferry and the forecast
The ferry MV Princess of Stars (Figure 1), operated by Sulpicio Lines, left the capital of Manila on Friday night before the storm, headed south for the 20-hour run to Cebu. At the time, Fengshen was a Category 1 typhoon, headed due west, and was located a few hundred miles south of the ship. As the ferry began passing through the outer spiral bands of Fengshen, the storm did a sharp (and poorly forecast) turn to the north-northwest and began a burst of rapid intensification to strong Category 2 status (110 mph winds), bringing very high waves and much higher than anticipated winds to the region the ferry was traversing. The waves battered the ship to the point where the engines stalled, and the ferry lay helpless until the strongest portion of the storm, the northern eyewall, passed over the ship and sank it. Why the ferry allowed itself to get so close to the storm in the first place is a mystery.


Figure 2.Visible satellite image of Fengshen at 4:55 GMT June 21, 2008, 25 minutes after radio contact was lost with the ferry MV Princess of Stars. The ship had left Manila in the Philippines about 8 hours prior to the accident for the 20 hour trip to Cebu. It appears that the ferry ran into the north eyewall of Fengshen when it was at peak intensity, with sustained winds of 110 mph. Fengshen was headed due west when the ferry set sail (track image, lower left), then made a sudden, poorly forecast turn to the north-northwest as the ferry approached the typhoon. Image credit: NASA.

Tropical Atlantic
There are currently no threat areas in the Atlantic to discuss. One computer model, the GFS, is forecasting a disturbed area of low pressure may form the the southern Gulf of Mexico's Bay of Campeche on Sunday. The other models don't see this happening, and instead put the focus of any development on the Pacific side of Mexico early next week. At present, this seems a more reasonable forecast.

Jeff Masters

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601. surfmom
7:51 PM GMT on June 25, 2008
Ok so I'm in for hot, humid, sticky, HEAVY air --truly was hoping for a thunder & light show -
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600. surfmom
7:45 PM GMT on June 25, 2008
pat --what don't you know LOL, What a terrific hook-up.....crawfish!!!!! oh yum.......Got those numbers down ...this will make a great surprise for my family (like a b-day or something)

Also Pat...just curious do you work with more then one computer/monitor????? I can't figure out how you access soooo much information, from so many different places so quickly
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599. OUSHAWN
7:47 PM GMT on June 25, 2008
It's amazing how much shear seems to be in the gulf. You see in the satellites how the storms keep trying to fire up but the tops are just being blown right off. Until this pattern changes it looks to be pretty quiet in the tropics...at least as far as the GOM is concerned.
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598. Patrap
2:43 PM CDT on June 25, 2008
My Seafood Spot,round da corner here.


Big Fisherman SeafoodLink
Fresh Seafood Daily Live and Boiled We pack for travel. ... 7 days a week. Link
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 430 Comments: 130818
597. surfmom
7:41 PM GMT on June 25, 2008
I know --just taping it out makes me hungry. I've been yearning for fresh flounder. When it's dead calm and the water is clear we go out early just dawn am to a cove and go hunting for flounder --it is the only fish I can spear (but it's hard,for me to do the act) my kids hoot, cause I keep saying I'm sorry to the fish
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596. surfmom
7:38 PM GMT on June 25, 2008
my young son turned his old play house into a chicken coop. He raised from babies 24 chickens (no roosters) sold 18 to cover his initial costs and now we trade his eggs for anything from polo lessons, tomatoes, fresh lobster from the keyes, local caught fish, cake and cookies....but back to weather, there's all kind of rumbling, the air is heavy, feels like somethings about to happen. my local radar is down --so I am wondering what's happen in the gulf or out east
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595. Nolehead
7:37 PM GMT on June 25, 2008
dang surfmom....i'm hungry now...
Member Since: June 3, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 1934
594. surfmom
7:22 PM GMT on June 25, 2008
just in from out east of I75 in SRQ/FL first blue skies and then big clouds seem to close in from the west and I thought the east too. Very, very humid and BUGY. Horses threw a sweat real quick on the track, we dropped a lap off their normal routine. The grass is green out there and seeding all over the place which is VERY good news --the rains have helped. Of course now we deal with "fungus amoungus" which fungus in hooves (the horse equivalent of athletes food) and other kinds of skin issues. Some horses go through the summer no problem, then there are others that are constant maintainance --or they itch themselves raw.

Fish in the Gulf is high in...mercury - best to eat the smaller younger ones, best to fish 15-20 off shore. Both my boys spearfish, as well as w/a reel. Snook is a delicacy, Sheepshead is the poor man's lobster, of course there is all kinds of snapper (mangrove being heavenly) and when I very lucky hogfish (which most people do not know about) Fresh mackeral marinated in lemon is also quite good the day it caught.
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593. conchygirl
3:35 PM EDT on June 25, 2008
590. Littleninjagrl
-------------------
We see you!
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592. weathermanwannabe
3:05 PM EDT on June 25, 2008
Per Tallahassee NWS, the Bermuda High is presently centered NE of the Bahamas.....

NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE TALLAHASSEE FL
230 PM EDT WED JUN 25 2008

THURSDAY...LIGHT SW STEERING FLOW PERSISTS AS CWA LOCATED BETWEEN A WEAK 500 MB TROUGH OVER THE TENNESSEE VALLEY AND THE BERMUDA HIGH CENTERED NORTHEAST OF THE BAHAMAS. THIS FLOW WILL BECOME INCREASINGLY MOIST INTO FRIDAY AS IT TAPS DEEP LAYER MOISTURE FROM THE TROPICS. ON FRIDAY INTO SATURDAY.


If it stays in that general area (is basically set for the Summer), that is not good news for South Florida come the Cape Verde season..........
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591. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
7:10 PM GMT on June 25, 2008
National Hurricane Center - Miami, Florida

Tropical Cyclone Outlook (1800z 25Jun)
========================================
An area of disturbed weather is located about 450 miles south of Acapulco, Mexico. This system has become a little better organized during the past 24 hours and additional slow development is possible as it moves west-northwest over the next day or two.

Tropical Cyclone Development Potential
====================================
MODERATE (25-50%)
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590. Littleninjagrl
7:09 PM GMT on June 25, 2008
Hopefully you can see this post. I've posted a few times and it hasn't shown up yet. Any body see me? *waves hand*
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589. NEwxguy
6:56 PM GMT on June 25, 2008
watching the storms form in the gulf and in the southeast,a lot of them aren't moving much,an awful lot of water is going to fall
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588. Nolehead
6:59 PM GMT on June 25, 2008
um....you sure would think so anyways...GEES!!
Member Since: June 3, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 1934
587. presslord
2:55 PM EDT on June 25, 2008
according to the Sulpicio Lines site they're doing autopsies on the dead....Wouldn't cause of death be pretty obvious?
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586. FLWeatherFreak91
2:42 PM EDT on June 25, 2008
I believe the area in the gulf should be dying out pretty quickly because of the outflow that is quickly racing wnw... the entire complex was part of a simple axis of instability which extends from the gulf ne-ward across central fl and eventually off the Daytona coast. The axis caused the earlier severe t-storms in polk co. which now continue to fire across hills. co.
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585. OUSHAWN
6:37 PM GMT on June 25, 2008
How strong is the shear in the GOM right now? I don't really have time to look at the moment. Is it in the 20-40knt range or higher?
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584. JRRP
6:33 PM GMT on Junio 25, 2008
582
thanks
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583. stoormfury
6:35 PM GMT on June 25, 2008
This is the GFS forecast wind shear when the strong vorticity wave on the prime meriian will exit the African coast. DRAK conditions look good

Link
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582. Drakoen
6:30 PM GMT on June 25, 2008
579. JRRP 6:22 PM GMT on June 25, 2008
but why the GFS shows the system moving towards the northwest if it has a high strong enough as to support it in the southern part


The GFS is forecasting for a slightly positive NAO for the first week of July. This favors the Azores/Bermuda High strengthening by Azores instead of the mid and western Atlantic. The easterly fix allows more storms systems to come of the U.S. eastern seaboard board. The GFS think a deep layered longwave trough in the mid-atlantic will be enough to to carve out a weakness between the Bermuda high and the subtropical high allow the system to come to the northwest.

It is important to note however, that the ensemble means favor a negative NAO and the trough not cutting so deep in the mid-Atlantic allowing the shallow to middle layer steering to be more westerly or WNW than NW which favors recurvature out to sea with the steering from the centralized Bermuda high. You'll notice the differences on some of the models vs. the GFS. Pulling up the 500mb vorticity and surface charts some of the models favor the cold-core low pressure system to track more to the north with the lower to middle high pressure center to the south.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 31549
581. presslord
2:23 PM EDT on June 25, 2008
also...assuming it was carrying vehicles...water could have breaached the egress...but in that case she likely would have just sunk....my guess is they just burned up....
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580. moonlightcowboy
1:21 PM CDT on June 25, 2008
- Press, thanks. It seems just about everything that could go wrong, did! Tragic for sure. Not a good day for a sail!

- Drak, yeah, these twaves will find fruition soon. That one you just diagrammed surely looks like it will have potential.
Member Since: July 9, 2006 Posts: 184 Comments: 29610
579. JRRP
6:19 PM GMT on Junio 25, 2008
but why the GFS shows the system moving towards the northwest if it has a high strong enough as to support it in the southern part
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578. presslord
2:19 PM EDT on June 25, 2008
Dr. Masters said waves battered the ship and killed the engines....could be the props were outta the water and they burned up...WHo knows? but when they died church was out....
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577. moonlightcowboy
1:16 PM CDT on June 25, 2008
569. presslord 12:48 PM CDT on June 25, 2008
...they were pretty much dead when the engines quit...tho they did get a life raft off...42 people made it....



Press, what's the skinny on why the engines would quit?

I mean this "ship" looks modern, multI-engined I'm sure, backup systems, etc.
Member Since: July 9, 2006 Posts: 184 Comments: 29610
576. Drakoen
6:06 PM GMT on June 25, 2008
Even if this wave is the forerunner, this wave should not be ignored. Wavetracking low level winds from CIMSS depicted numerous reports of surface westerlies and at 15:00 UTC CIMSS METEOSAT-9 Lower Level Winds also showed reports of surface westerlies at 800mb-950mb. Animated imagery showed some circulation at least in the mid levels if not the surface. This wave is also exhibiting some of the highest potential vorticity amounts we have seen so far.
Photobucket
Photobucket
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575. Nolehead
6:05 PM GMT on June 25, 2008
the GOM sure is blowing up rather quikly...wonder if it could be a fast freaky forming storm??
Member Since: June 3, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 1934
574. presslord
2:04 PM EDT on June 25, 2008
maybe so pat...either way, they had no business out there...
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573. Patrap
12:51 PM CDT on June 25, 2008
I doubt they got a raft off..as the vessel rolled.

But ,what likely did occur is that the container life rafts hydrostatic release mechanisms worked and they managed to get into some of them.
Luckily.

Viking Brand Container Life Raft Demo Link

Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 430 Comments: 130818
572. OUSHAWN
5:56 PM GMT on June 25, 2008
Is that still the TUTT low I see spinning in the GOM? If so than you can forget about anything forming out there until that darn thing gets out of the way.
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571. Michfan
12:49 PM CDT on June 25, 2008
Id love to see some rain today. Been dry in SE AL for a few days now give or take a day.

Looks like the tropical moisture over Africa is finally starting to lift northward. We may see an active Cape Verde season yet. It would be nice to have something to follow off the African coast.
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570. Drakoen
5:49 PM GMT on June 25, 2008
568. stoormfury 5:48 PM GMT on June 25, 2008
so this wave in 74hrs is the fore runner of the wave with that is expected to form the closed low over Africa. when is the next GFS run?


That is what the GFS is saying atm. The next GFS run is at 5:30 pm EDT.
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569. presslord
1:46 PM EDT on June 25, 2008
they were pretty much dead when the engines quit...tho they did get a life raft off...42 people made it....
Member Since: August 13, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 10492
568. stoormfury
5:45 PM GMT on June 25, 2008
so this wave in 74hrs is the fore runner of the wave with that is expected to form the closed low over Africa. when is the next GFS run?
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567. tropicfreak
1:44 PM EDT on June 25, 2008
540. TheWeatherMan504 12:52 PM EDT
we are in for an active july!

Just wait till August and especially September! The blog would really be clogged!
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566. all4hurricanes
1:44 PM EDT on June 25, 2008
Yeah waves won't form now
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565. Drakoen
5:39 PM GMT on June 25, 2008
562. stoormfury 5:35 PM GMT on June 25, 2008
DRAK
it seems that some persons are not taking the GFS quite sreious. i believe with the train of waves line up over Africa one of them will have to give and develop. iam still expecting a cyclone to form during the first week of july. the wave with the strong vortcity near the meridan when should it exit the coast and what is the forecast of the steering winds there after?


The wave near the meridian is unlikely to be the wave to develop as it will exit the coast in 74 hours. High pressure to the north will take that area westward.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 31549
564. FLWeatherFreak91
1:37 PM EDT on June 25, 2008
558. TampaSpin 1:22 PM EDT on June 25, 2008 Hide this comment.
Wow a very large mask of storms is building off the West coast of Florida...very heavy stuff...


Take a look at this vis sat loop- The Storms fired out of nowhere and I'm not exactly sure whether they are moving or just developing extremely rapidly. Take a look.
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563. all4hurricanes
1:39 PM EDT on June 25, 2008

there you are stoorm
I agree such strong waves look like they should form in early July but I think we should really start watching them in the beginning of August
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562. stoormfury
5:22 PM GMT on June 25, 2008
DRAK
it seems that some persons are not taking the GFS quite sreious. i believe with the train of waves line up over Africa one of them will have to give and develop. iam still expecting a cyclone to form during the first week of july. the wave with the strong vortcity near the meridan when should it exit the coast and what is the forecast of the steering winds there after?
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561. LakeShadow
5:22 PM GMT on June 25, 2008
Thats gotta be nice, taking the boat out in leu of going to the grocery store. Its hard to find fresh fish here..the markets are awful. The only way to get good fish is to catch it yourself. (or makes friends with a fisherman). The yellow pike are astounding when we can get it.
My bro-in-law is heading on a fishing trip to Alaska next week and promised me some flash-frozen haddock and wild Salmon. Some of the best fish I ever had, (eventhough it was frozen..a necessity, though).
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560. Littleninjagrl
5:25 PM GMT on June 25, 2008
So tampaspin? Where's my shark meat??? Remember....I know where you live! lol
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559. Spetrm
5:24 PM GMT on June 25, 2008
My wife has rode on some of those ferrys in Manilla. And shes told me there not much to stand up against small waves. Not to mention large hurricane waves.
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558. TampaSpin
1:19 PM EDT on June 25, 2008
Wow a very large mask of storms is building off the West coast of Florida...very heavy stuff...
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557. Patrap
12:18 PM CDT on June 25, 2008
The GOM aint so Bad..

Unless your way offshore.Link
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 430 Comments: 130818
556. TampaSpin
1:16 PM EDT on June 25, 2008
552. NoNamePub 1:12 PM EDT on June 25, 2008
553. LakeShadow 1:15 PM EDT on June 25, 2008


We only keep what we can eat in a few days...or what we give away to friends.....alot of fun but, good ummmmsss also
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555. all4hurricanes
1:16 PM EDT on June 25, 2008

551 lets hope that isn't a precursor of whats to come, but that would make the year of natural disasters live up to it's name
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554. TheWeatherMan504
5:16 PM GMT on June 25, 2008
553. LakeShadow 5:15 PM GMT on June 25, 2008
mmm...fresh caught fish is tastey. Caught that in the GOMEX, tampa? How is the fish quality there? A lot of contamination or no? Here the great lakes are pretty polluted. The fish caught there isnt good for children, elderly or pregnant women. We get the best fish from the lower Niagara River and the Hudson Bay in Ca. I dont know about lakes Mich, Huron or Superior..but Erie and Ontarios are pretty contaminated.


Do the fish where you live have 7 eyes and an arm with fangs? LOL!
Member Since: May 18, 2008 Posts: 2 Comments: 1042
553. LakeShadow
5:10 PM GMT on June 25, 2008
mmm...fresh caught fish is tastey. Caught that in the GOMEX, tampa? How is the fish quality there? A lot of contamination or no? Here the great lakes are pretty polluted. The fish caught there isnt good for children, elderly or pregnant women. We get the best fish from the lower Niagara River and the Hudson Bay in Ca. I dont know about lakes Mich, Huron or Superior..but Erie and Ontarios are pretty contaminated.
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552. NoNamePub
5:10 PM GMT on June 25, 2008
OK Cool -
Wanted to make sure it went for good use!

Caught a Huge Gag about a month ago....he was TASTY TOO!
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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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