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Fengshen: deadliest Western Pacific storm in 17 years

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

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


The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.

Reader Comments

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652. Skyepony (Mod)
9:48 PM GMT on June 25, 2008
Potental flood areas after the last 24 hrs worth of rain.


TRMM

Looks like the MS river may be in for continued flooding with up to 8 inches of fresh rainfall over some of it's tributaries.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
651. 69Viking
9:44 PM GMT on June 25, 2008
Ok, hitting the road home. Talk at you all later when just maybe they'll be rain in the FL Panhandle!
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650. HurrMichaelOrl
9:42 PM GMT on June 25, 2008
Has anyone in central Florida noticed the spin evident on dopplar radar near Leesburg? Is this some kind of low, or mcv?
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649. tropicfreak
9:38 PM GMT on June 25, 2008
Whats the latest GFS run?
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648. tropicfreak
9:37 PM GMT on June 25, 2008
Look at these thunderstoms lined up in Central America
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647. Patrap
9:37 PM GMT on June 25, 2008
Hurricane Prep for Pets
If you and your family need to evacuate to a public shelter during a disaster, you must plan for the care of your pets. Such planning could save their lives Link,re=loaded with Video

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646. CybrTeddy
9:37 PM GMT on June 25, 2008
Kortie, GFS has been wanted to form a Cape Verde Storm for the pass couple of runs.
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645. TerraNova
9:37 PM GMT on June 25, 2008
18z GFS just started running..Link
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644. BajaALemt
9:35 PM GMT on June 25, 2008
Nice seabreeze SA north coast Link
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643. Drakoen
9:33 PM GMT on June 25, 2008
94E:
Photobucket
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642. tropicfreak
9:32 PM GMT on June 25, 2008
Or along the US gulf coast
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641. tropicfreak
9:31 PM GMT on June 25, 2008


The Yucatan storm is moving into the gulf. A lot going on in the GOM
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640. BajaALemt
9:30 PM GMT on June 25, 2008
*looks longingly @ POE's rader*
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639. BajaALemt
9:28 PM GMT on June 25, 2008
I noticed the PW went from 1.7 this morning down to 1.4 this afternoon and cap went from 2.2 to 2.4. Gee, no wonder..lol
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638. Drakoen
9:27 PM GMT on June 25, 2008
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637. tropicfreak
9:26 PM GMT on June 25, 2008
Wow these thunderstorms along Florida's gulf coast looks very impressive.
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636. BajaALemt
9:25 PM GMT on June 25, 2008
Afternoon, folks...

LOL Viking! I've been looking at the sat loops for FL Link and it looks like everything to the west, north, and east is suckin' US dry! ('scuse the pun)
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635. captainhunter
9:23 PM GMT on June 25, 2008
I think Ike's right. Tomorrow and Friday are looking promising for precip in the panhandle.
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634. tropicfreak
9:22 PM GMT on June 25, 2008
I'm waiting for the 530 GFS run
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633. Drakoen
9:22 PM GMT on June 25, 2008
The always entertaining NAM/WRF model wants to develop a closed low in the Gulf of Mexico and move it into Louisiana, which is probably the reason for the abundance in moisture compared to the more reliable computer forecast models favoring less precipitation.
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632. 69Viking
9:19 PM GMT on June 25, 2008
611. weathermanwannabe

No kidding, we're cooking in the Panhandle while everyone around us is getting rain, just not right!
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631. IKE
9:16 PM GMT on June 25, 2008
628. 69Viking 4:13 PM CDT on June 25, 2008
589. NEwxguy

Absolutely no water falling in NW Florida once again.


Give it till tomorrow...clouds are heading NNW from the southern/central GOM....

GOM visible...thunderstorms blossoming over the inland sections
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630. KoritheMan
9:16 PM GMT on June 25, 2008
Good afternoon, all. I see 94L has become better organized overnight, with an overall increase in convection, upper-level outflow, and also vorticity. Definitely think it's going to become a tropical storm. This is likely an indicator of the positive phase of the MJO making its way into the East Pacific. The Atlantic is next. Will be interesting to see if anything develops when the MJO reaches the Atlantic.
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629. Skyepony (Mod)
9:13 PM GMT on June 25, 2008
Paul Mausser, 42, has been charged with attempted indecent liberties with a minor and use of a computer to solicit sex with a minor, Arlington police said.

Mausser is a meteorologist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the National Weather Service's Camp Springs office.


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628. 69Viking
9:13 PM GMT on June 25, 2008
589. NEwxguy

Absolutely no water falling in NW Florida once again.
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627. txalwaysprepared
9:12 PM GMT on June 25, 2008
Hey HOG!! You still signed in? Good to see you this season!
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626. Drakoen
9:00 PM GMT on June 25, 2008
lol atmo. I think we already have an example of breaking the rules before you even posted that video.
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625. sporteguy03
8:56 PM GMT on June 25, 2008
Slu post 620,
Is that your opinion or from the NWS/TPC?
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624. IcemanMC
8:54 PM GMT on June 25, 2008
621

as someone who lurks on the board to learn and see what's happening; that is a great idea
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623. all4hurricanes
8:50 PM GMT on June 25, 2008
LOL I AGREE
NOW ARN"T PUPPIES CUTE!!!!!
I THINX I BROK A 7RAL RULZ
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622. pearlandaggie
8:45 PM GMT on June 25, 2008
605. Pat, have you ever heard the rumor that the name HAL was derived by using the alphabetic letter just previous to each letter in IBM? sounds like conspiracy theory, but pretty interesting nonetheless!
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621. atmoaggie
8:37 PM GMT on June 25, 2008
Take look at this before the season begins in earnest...tell your friends...share all you like. Would be an even better blog if everyone takes a look.

a href="" target="_blank">Link

Hi, everyone.
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620. SLU
8:27 PM GMT on June 25, 2008
THE GFS IS A HIGHLY RESPECTABLE MODEL BUT LONG RANGE PREDICTIONS SHOULD BE TAKEN WITH GREAT SUSPICION. IT IS A GOOD INDICATOR OF THE UPCOMING WEATHER PATTERN NOT NECESSARILY MEANING THAT ALL LOWS/TROPICAL CYCLONES IT DEVELOPS WILL HAPPEN IN REAL LIFE. HOWEVER, IT CAN INDICATE THAT THE POTENTIAL FOR A STORM TO FORM IS INCREASING.

NOW WITH THE LOWS COMING OFF AFRICA ... ITS TRUE THAT THE WAVE TRAIN THIS YEAR HAS BEEN STRONGER THAN AVERAGE, BUT CLIMATOLOGY ALMOST ALWAYS WINS THE BATTLE AND IT SHOULD ONCE AGAIN UNLESS THIS YEAR IS 2005 PART 2.

OUT OF RESPECT FOR THE GFS, I DO EXPECT TO SEE A COUPLE OF THREATENING TROPICAL WAVES IN THE EASTERN ATLANTIC NEXT WEEK. ONE OR TWO MAY TRY TO DEVELOP FURTHER BUT IT IS A BIT UNLIKELY THAT THEY WILL UNLESS THEY REMAIN BELOW 10N ALL THE WAY ACROSS THE ATLANTIC WHERE THE SST's WILL BE HIGHEST AND THE SHEAR THE LOWEST.
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619. all4hurricanes
8:27 PM GMT on June 25, 2008
yes slu pre-Boris
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618. all4hurricanes
8:18 PM GMT on June 25, 2008

here it says 3-4% chance we have some contradicting data I think the previous prediction was better
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617. SLU
8:18 PM GMT on June 25, 2008
pre-BORIS?
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616. all4hurricanes
8:14 PM GMT on June 25, 2008

It has a chance, a feel a Boris coming on.
20-50% chance
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615. Nolehead
8:09 PM GMT on June 25, 2008
sure hope so, muggy is an understatement right now..
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614. weathermanwannabe
8:08 PM GMT on June 25, 2008
612. Nolehead 4:06 PM EDT on June 25, 2008 Plenty of T-storms to the West of you right now in LA/MS...Maybe they will creeeep east.........
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613. Nolehead
8:07 PM GMT on June 25, 2008
surfmom, board's been waxed for a while, just waiting...and waiting...
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612. Nolehead
8:06 PM GMT on June 25, 2008
got thunder over in P'cola...but that's about it...come on rain!!!
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611. weathermanwannabe
8:04 PM GMT on June 25, 2008
Nice to see all the rain around Florida right now (with the exception of the Big Bend and Panhandle where I am at.........)...Need some of that rain up here please.....
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610. Akumalturtle
8:03 PM GMT on June 25, 2008
We're getting stories of a red tide bloom happening off the northern tip of the Yucatan. It's very large, but in patchy sections, and moving west. Reports of dead fish floating and washing up on the beaches along the northern tip.
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609. HurrikanEB
8:02 PM GMT on June 25, 2008
wow...both Winnie and Ike are on "the lists" for this year. I doubt we'll see Winnie though because that would mean the east pacific would be spitting out 21 storms, but weirder things have happened
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608. RMM34667
8:01 PM GMT on June 25, 2008
Tampa Radar back online just in time!! Looks like we got more coming
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607. Nolehead
8:01 PM GMT on June 25, 2008
lol...good o'l HAL 9000!! "Patrap, why are you pushing that button"..lol
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605. Patrap
7:58 PM GMT on June 25, 2008
1 Dell and a Reuters Link surfmom.
But the Dell is Getting full like a Phat Tick on a Tired Bloodhound.



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604. surfmom
7:58 PM GMT on June 25, 2008
maybe per houseofG I'll still get my show --off to the kitchen w/me
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603. surfmom
7:57 PM GMT on June 25, 2008
Got to get thing rolling in the kitchen, BBL

Pat - if they really ship the crawfish - I am a very happy girl today!!!

Nolehead - keep that board ready --I just know those waves will come --tomorrow is paddle for an hour day --just to be ready LOL
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:

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Cat 6 lead authors: WU cofounder Dr. Jeff Masters (right), who flew w/NOAA Hurricane Hunters 1986-1990, & WU meteorologist Bob Henson, @bhensonweather

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