MANILA, Philippines - (UPDATE 3) The country’s weather agency weather Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said Typhoon Basyang (international codename Conson) is more likely to make landfall in the northern Quezon area instead of crossing Aurora province as earlier forecast, based on latest storm forecast models.
It is also expected to weaken as it hits land.
Speaking on ANC's "The Rundown," PAGASA Administrator Prisco Nilo said this would mean areas to the north of Aurora may not be severely affected.
Nilo added that with the typhoon moving closer to Quezon province, areas under Public Storm Signal Number 2, including parts of the Bicol Region, Camarines Norte and Camarines Sur, could be downgraded. He added that public storm signals in areas north of the typhoon’s path could also be lowered.
"For areas along Central Luzon, following the path of Typhoon Basyang, there's a chance it will be upgraded to a higher storm signal but the strength of the typhoon may weaken upon hitting land, so there’s a chance it may be maintained or reduced," Nilo said.
PAGASA's 5 p.m. bulletin showed the weather disturbance has slightly changed its course. Last estimated some 40 kilometers north of Alabat, Quezon, `Basyang' is bearing maximum sustained winds of 120 kilometers per hour near the center and is moving west at 22 kilometers per hour. It is expected to cross Luzon by Wednesday afternoon, before making its way out of the country via the South China Sea.
Camarines Norte, Northern Quezon, Polillo Island and Aurora are in for moderate to heavy rains and gusty winds under Signal Number 3.
Public Storm Signal Number 2 is up over Isabela, Bulacan, Rizal, Laguna, Camarines Sur and Catanduanes, while Cagayan, Kalinga, Benguet, Ifugao, Pangasinan, Tarlac, Zambales, Batangas, Albay as well as Metro Manila remain under Public Storm Signal Number 1.
Nilo earlier said that the typhoon has a 250-kilometer radius, adding areas to the south could also see cloud developments and heavy rains given effects of the southwest monsoon.
At its current speed, Nilo said accumulated rainfall from the typhoon may, however, not be enough to normalize water levels in the Angat Dam.
"Our estimate is this typhoon may increase the water level at the Angat Dam by around 2 meters," Nilo said.
PAGASA's next bulletin will be at 11 p.m., and public storm signals in some areas to the north of the typhoon's path are expected to be downgraded.
Getting ready for `Basyang'
Aurora Gov. Bella Angara-Castillo, meanwhile, said they are looking out for southern towns like Dingalan, after receiving word that central Aurora and northern Aurora were no longer under Signal Number 3.
She said that they have stepped up evacuation in a barangay in the coastal area that suffered much under a strong typhoon 3 years ago. A province-wide warning system was earlier given by PAGASA for Aurora.
Camarines Norte Gov. Edgardo Tallado said residents in 9 municipalities staying in coastlines near the Pacific Ocean have been evacuated. He added that the situation remains manageable in the province.
The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) office in the province was asked to prepare for the needs of residents who may be displaced by flooding, as they convened the Provincial Disaster Coordinating Council Tuesday morning. The provincial government has prepared relief goods and evacuation centers for over 1,000 families expected to be affected by “Basyang.”
In Manila, stormy weather ahead of the typhoon forced schools to close, international flights to divert, and ships to be barred from leaving port.
Afternoon classes in elementary schools in Metro Manila were suspended, while aviation authorities diverted several incoming flights to Clark airport about 80 kilometers (50 miles) north of the capital.
"There was poor visibility because of the heavy rains. They could not see the runway," said Connie Bungag, a spokeswoman for the airport authority.
Flights of several small domestic carriers were also cancelled, while the Coast Guard barred ships from setting sail from Manila pier.
Coast Guard spokesman Lt. Commander Armand Balilo said ships already en route to Manila should take shelter at the nearest port of call.
The arrival of Basyang marks the start of this year's typhoon season for the Philippines.
About 20 typhoons slam into the Philippines every year, causing widespread destruction and claiming many lives.
Millions of poor Filipinos live in slums alongside rivers and waterways, making them particularly vulnerable to floods.
More than 1,000 people died in September and October last year when two fierce storms ripped through Manila and other parts of Luzon.
Meantime, Nilo said the early termination of El Niño has affected the number of tropical cyclones that developed this month. He added that until conditions normalize after the El Niño, the country could experience less than average number of tropical cyclones: 2 or 3 in August, 3 or 4 in September as well as in October.
Improved weather forecasting capability
PAGASA, meanwhile, said they continue efforts to improve the country's weather forecasting capability.
The Philippines has 5 existing radars: 2 upgraded into Doppler radars on top of 3 existing old ones. The new radars are in Baler, Aurora and in Baguio.
Meantime, 7 new Doppler radars are expected to be installed and operational within the year. New Doppler radar stations are also being constructed while some equipment installations are ongoing in Subic and is expected to be fully-operational by the first week of August.
The equipment for Hinatuan, Surigao del Sur is being delivered to the site for installation and is expected to be fully-operational by September.
Equipment for Tampakan, South Cotabato is expected to arrive on July 15 for immediate installation, and is expected to be operational by September.
Those scheduled to be delivered to Tagaytay and Cebu and expected to be fully operational sometime in September or late October or November. -- With Agence France-Presse