Hagibis is third Cat. 5 to threaten Marianas in a year

Posted on Oct 09 2019

The barricade surrounding the Shell gas station in Koblerville that was still being repaired after being destroyed by Super Typhoon Yutu last October 2018 was knocked down by Super Typhoon Hagibis. (Marc A. Venus)

In a span of just 12 months, there have been three Category 5 super typhoons that have affected or threatened the Marianas: Super Typhoon Yutu that hit Tinian and Saipan in October last year; Super Typhoon Wutip that hit Guam and Rota last February; and now, Super Typhoon Hagibis that affected Saipan, Tinian, and the Northern Islands this past Monday and Tuesday.

The islands have seen—especially from Yutu and, more recently, Hagibis—the effects tropical storms have on coastal areas as they become more intense.

In an article by Jonathan Erdman, senior meteorologist at weather.com, Super Typhoon Hagibis set a record for its rapid rate of intensification from a tropical storm early Monday morning, to a Category 5 super typhoon by early Tuesday morning. This means that the maximum sustained windspeed of the storm increased by 100 miles per hour in just 24 hours.

Phil Klotzbach, tropical scientist at Colorado State University, also said Hagibis showed the strongest rapid intensification of any western Pacific tropical cyclone in at least 23 years.

Rapid intensification of tropical cyclones is becoming more frequent, most of it blamed on higher sea temperatures, which is food for cyclones.

Several recent tropical cyclones have been noted for their rapid rates of intensification to Category 5 strength, including Hurricane Dorian that hit the Bahamas last month, Hurricane Michael that hit Florida in October last year, Hurricane Patricia that hit Mexico in October 2015, and Super Typhoon Maria that affected several islands, including the Marianas, in July last year.

None of the forecast models, which are based on data from past storms, predicted that Hagibis would intensify as quickly as it did to Category 5 strength. Based on a recent research by Massachusetts Institute of Technology hurricane scientist Kerry Emmanuel, such extreme rapid intensification could become even more frequent due to climate change.

In September, the Natural Resources Committee of the U.S. Congress advanced 10 bills aimed at combating climate change and protecting oceans and coasts from its effects, which included the Coastal State Climate Preparedness Act (H.R. 3541) which creates a Climate Change Adaptation Preparedness and Response Program, which Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) co-sponsored.

Iva Maurin | Correspondent
Iva Maurin is a communications specialist with environment and community outreach experience in the Philippines and in California. She has a background in graphic arts and is the Saipan Tribune’s community and environment reporter. Contact her at iva_maurin@saipantribune.com
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