MANILA - The state weather bureau likened typhoon Ompong's strength to that of super typhoon Lawin (Haima) which also hit northern Luzon in October 2016, leaving at least 8 people dead.
"Halos magkapareho sila ng bagyong Lawin. 'Yung damage ni Lawin nang mag-landfall siya, na severe ganito rin ang mangyari dito sa Ompong," said weather forecaster Rene Paciente.
"Malakas po ang bagyo natin, at siguradong maraming punong tutumbahin 'to kung hindi hihina ngayon. Saka 'yung mga bahay na gawa sa light materials puwedeng tangayin," he added.
Ompong continues to pack maximum sustained winds of 205 kph near the center and gusts of up to 255 kph, but it "slightly slowed down" at 20 kph, PAGASA said in its 11 a.m. weather bulletin.
PAGASA had said that Ompong will likely peak at 220 kph in maximum sustained winds with gusts of 270 kph, a little weaker than Lawin's 225 kph top sustained winds.
The weather bureau classifies as a tropical cyclone with max sustained winds exceeding 220 kph as a supertyphoon, the same category as the deadly Yolanda (Haiyan) in 2013.
The two typhoons are also similar in diameter, PAGASA noted, with Ompong measuring 900 kilometers and Lawin 800 kilometers.
Like Lawin, Ompong is also expected to make landfall in Cagayan on Saturday. The typhoon is expected to bring intense rains and storm surges in Northern Luzon.
In 2016, Lawin's damage to agriculture in Cagayan reached P5 billion as it flooded 66,000 hectares of rice fields, and 2,500 hectares of high-value crops.
The Department of Social Welfare and Development also reported that over 80,000 people from regions 1, 2, 5, and the Cordillera Administrative Region, fled their homes because of Lawin.
Disaster officials have been preparing for Ompong since Tuesday after learning lessons of preparedness from Lawin and Yolanda in the past years.
Over 20 areas in Luzon have been placed under cyclone warning signal no. 1. These places will experience rains from the periphery of typhoon Ompong in the next 36 hours, PAGASA said.