Super Typhoon Bopha (also known as ‘Pablo’ in the Philippines region of responsibility) made landfall on the island of Mindanao in the southern Philippines around 4:30am local time December 4th 2012. According the the Joint Typhoon Warning Center, the storm had 160mph (1-minute) sustained winds making it a category 5 equivalent storm and the strongest ever recorded to hit this part of the Philippines. If there is any silver lining to a category 5 tropical cyclone landfall, it is that winds of that strength are only found in a very small section of the eyewall, which eroded or collapsed during the landfall due to interaction with coastal mountains on the island.
Torrential rains have triggered flash floods and mudslides on this island as feared, but also as forecast, the storm’s fast pace has kept the floods from being on the catastrophic scale as was seen last December with Tropical Storm Washi. Wind damage, mainly on the coast near the landfall site appears to have been severe; and a storm surge north of the landfall site was likely destructive. Reports are still coming in, but initial reports show that more than 40 people have tragically died in this storm.
Bopha has since weakened to a borderline category one to two equivalent typhoon, with 100mph/85kts (1-minute) sustained winds, and its center is about to exit the Philippines into the South China Sea. Gusty winds and heavy rains are still a threat to the Philippines until the storm completely clears them. Vietnam and southeast China in particular are next to be threatened by this typhoon, this includes a small threat to Macau and Hong Kong. However, this forecast is very uncertain as weak steering currents are expected to develop over the South China Sea as Bopha emerges; the storm could linger for days or even dissipate without going very far.