TUGUEGARAO, Philippines - Typhoon Mangkhut retained its ferocious strength, gained speed and shifted slightly toward more densely populated coastal provinces Friday as it barreled closer to the northeastern Philippines, where a massive evacuation was underway.
More than 5 million people are at risk from the storm, which the Hawaii-based Joint Typhoon Warning Center categorizes as a super typhoon with powerful winds and gusts equivalent to a category 5 Atlantic hurricane.
The typhoon was initially expected to hit the northern tip of Cagayan province early today, but it is now likely to make landfall farther south near the middle of the rice-producing province. From there, Mangkhut is forecast to blow across the sparsely populated mountain province of Apayao and then over Ilocos Norte province before exiting into the sea Saturday night, state forecaster Rene Paciente said.
With a huge raincloud band 560 miles wide, combined with seasonal monsoon rains, the typhoon could bring heavy to intense rain that could set off landslides and flash floods. Storm warnings have been raised in almost all the provinces across the main northern island of Luzon, including the capital, Manila, restricting sea and air travel.
Mangkhut was tracked late Friday about 118 miles away in the Pacific with sustained winds of 127 miles per hour and gusts of up to 158 mph, forecasters said. They said the fast-moving typhoon has gained speed as it moves northwestward at 19 mph.
Even if the typhoon weakens slightly after slamming ashore, its winds will remain very destructive, Paciente said.
“It can lift cars, you can’t stand, you can’t even crawl against that wind,” Paciente said at a news conference in Manila.