Typhoon Megi continues to intensify and is expected to be a significant threat to the northern Philippine province of Luzon by late this weekend. Americares is making preparations to bring relief. Typhoon Megi is currently the only tropical cyclone anywhere on earth but it could be one of the strongest of the year to affect land. While it is very likely that the storm will go well beyond the threshold of Super Typhoon status with winds in excess of 100 kts, the specific track seems to be a little problematic and that could mean all the difference for the Philippines. By 18 UTC (Z) October 17, 2010 the typhoon is expected to have sustained winds of 135 kts with gusts to 165 kts. Roughly, that would be just shy of the North Atlantic Category 5 classification. Environmental conditions are such that intensification from the 18 UTC (Z) October 15, 2010 95 kt level to the loftier, stronger classification is likely. Megi is the name of a catfish in South Korea and is related to the feeling of getting wet, according to the Hong Kong Observatory
Typhoon Megi was about 1000 miles east of Manilla at 18 UTC (Z) 10.15.10 moving WestNorthwest at about 17 kts with a central pressure of 955 mb which will in itself support higher winds than the current estimates. The pressure trend has continued to be down. The typhoon has been traveling around a big ridge of high pressure to the north but has taken the more northwesterly track over the past 24 hours due to a weakness in the ridge just south of Okinawa, Japan. The general model consensus and analysis of the Joint Typhoon Warning Center is for that weakness to get squished out and the ridge reassert itself. As that happens, Typhoon Megi will resume a more westerly course around the ridge. However, previous forecasts had been calling for that turn more to the west to have already occured. Since it has not, the landfall point on Luzon has been shifted farther north to somewhere near or north of Palanan and east of Tuguegarao. The northern part of the island is very mountainous and the terrain is anticipated to do a number on the storm and it should rapidly fall apart with the land interaction. However, the rising terrain of the mountains will provide for a lifting mechanism that will tend to enhance rainfall. It is for that reason that in the Philippines and other island nations with central mountain ranges that flooding and mudslides are often the greatest threat as rainfall totals can be exceptionally extreme in a relatively short period of time. Given the counterclockwise flow of a typhoon in the northern hemisphere, even locations on the other side of the island such as Laoag can expect and onshore flow from the north that will also provide adverse conditions of wind and heavy rain.
The thinking now is that the storm will run across the northern part of the Philippines in 48-72 hours and lose much intensity, but not completely. It is expected to re-emerge in the South China Sea as a 75 kt typhoon where it will continue west and regain some strength over the following day or so back to 90 kts. From that point, it is expected to make a second landfall, perhaps on the South China island of Hainan. From there, it could move across the Gulf of Tonkin and make a 3rd landfall in North Vietnam. While it will certainly have lost considerable intensity by then, it is not uncommon for typhoons on the downside of life to prove a risk to life and property in Vietnam due to flooding concerns.
I would think that the fly in the ointment is the weakness in the ridge. It is caused by a shortwave trof that came off the Asian continent. As mentioned it is forecast to be squished, or more correctly, it is expected to lift to the northeast as the ridge fills in. However, if that trof does not lift out in a timely manner or slower than currently anticipated, then it is plausible that Megi proceeds on its current west northwest track a bit longer than forecast before making its turn more toward the west. Should that happen to a great enough degree, then the typhoon could run over the islands in the Luzon Strait. That would also bring Hong Kong into the picture as a potential threat to receive at least adverse effects of a major typhoon.
Bottom line is that this is going to be a serious typhoon. It will affect the northern Philippines to some degree. The current forecast calls for a landfall in Northern Luzon. However, unanticipated but possible changes in the atmospheric conditions to the north that are steering the storm give rise to a degree of uncertainty as to the ultimate story of Typhoon Megi.