Typhoon could strike Philippine ports this week

Satellite photo of Tropical Storm Vongfong on May 12, 2020.

Tropical Storm Vongfong, the first named storm of the 2020 Pacific typhoon season, has developed in the Philippine Sea east of Mindanao, Philippines. It will likely hit the northern Philippines as a typhoon sometime Thursday.

On Vongfong’s current forecast path, the very large port of Manila would escape significant storm surge but could sustain wind damage. Several small container ports in the northern Philippines would be prone to wind damage and rough waters, along with flooding from storm surge and heavy rainfall, all of which could slow freight flows for a period of time.

The Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC) noted a low-pressure system near Micronesia last Saturday. The system developed into a tropical depression the next day, and the JTWC issued a Tropical Cyclone Formation Alert. The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) then upgraded the system to a tropical depression later that day, naming it Ambo, the first tropical cyclone to enter the Philippine Area of Responsibility this year.

Earlier Tuesday, the depression strengthened into a tropical storm and the Japan Meteorological Agency gave it the international name “Vongfong.”

As of 8 a.m. Eastern time (8 p.m Philippine Time) Tuesday, Vongfong’s maximum sustained winds were 40 mph with gusts of 55 mph and the storm was moving to the northwest at 7 mph. Vongfong is forecast to strengthen into a typhoon over the next 24 hours, producing thunderstorms and heavy rainfall in the northern Philippines. Then, Vongfong will likely make landfall over Catanduanes, Bicol, in the Philippines on Thursday with maximum sustained winds of 75 to 80 mph. By Friday morning, it will be about 16 miles northwest of Alabat, Quezon.

PAGASA officials have warned that flooding and landslides due to heavy rain may occur in vulnerable areas, and storm surge will add to the flooding threat. Winds will likely knock down trees and utility lines, leading to loss of electricity and possible roadblocks.

SONAR Ship Locator (left); Critical Events and satellite, Tuesday, May 12, 2020 (right)

Vongfong will impact the northern Philippines through the first half of the weekend. Then, it will probably move out to sea Sunday, likely dumping rainfall in southern Taiwan at that time. It’s uncertain at this point if Vongfong could make landfall in Taiwan. This will depend on the storm’s condition after it strikes the Philippines, as well as whether a nontropical system headed to Japan throws Vongfong off course.