MANILA - Christmas storm Ursula strengthened into a typhoon on Tuesday afternoon, the state weather bureau said.
The country's 21st and potentially last storm this year was spotted 95 kilometers east of Guiuan, Eastern Samar at 1 p.m., packing maximum winds of 120 km per hour and up to 150 kph gusts, PAGASA said.
The storm's entry has stranded thousands in ports hoping to go home to their provinces for Christmas as sea travel in areas at risk has been barred.
Ursula (international name: Phanfone) is forecast to hit land over Borongan-Guiuan area between 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Christmas Eve, it added.
Until noon of Christmas Day on Wednesday, Ursula will bring occasional to frequent heavy rains over Dinagat Islands, Siargao and Bucas Grande Islands, Eastern Visayas, Sorsogon, Masbate, northern and central Cebu, northern Negros Provinces, Aklan, Antique, Capiz, Iloilo, Guimaras and Romblon.
Light to moderate with intermittent heavy rains, meanwhile, will be experienced over the rest of Bicol region, Quezon, Marinduque, Oriental Mindoro, and the rest of Visayas and Surigao del Norte.
Storm surges of up to 2 meters may hit coastal areas in Eastern Samar, Northern Samar, and Leyte, the weather agency warned.
PAGASA hoisted storm warning signal no. 3 over the following areas, where winds could uproot big trees, peel off roofs and cause "moderate to heavy damage to exposed communities."
- Northern Samar
- Eastern Samar
- Camotes Islands
It also raised storm warning signal no. 2 over the following areas, where winds between 61 kph and 120 kph may bring "light to moderate" damage.
- Southern portion of Quezon (Mulanay, San Narciso, San Andres, San Francisco)
- Oriental Mindoro
- Occidental Mindoro including Lubang Island
- Masbate including Burias and Ticao Islands
- Extreme northern Cebu including Bantayan
- northeastern Iloilo
- northern Antique
- Southern Leyte and extreme northern Negros Occidental
Storm signal no. 1 — which means winds could "partially unroof" houses made of light materials and cause "significant damage" to rice crops — was, meanwhile, hoisted over the following areas:
- Metro Manila
- rest of Quezon
- Camarines Sur
- Camarines Norte
- northern Palawan
- Calamian Islands and Cuyo Islands
- The rest of northern Cebu
- central Cebu
- northeastern Bohol
- rest of Antique
- rest of Iloilo
- northern Negros Occidental
- northern Negros Oriental
- Surigao del Norte including Siargao and Bucas Grande Islands
Some 16,600 passengers were stuck in ports in Metro Manila, Southern Luzon, Bicol Region and Visayas after sea trips were canceled due to the bad weather, said the Philippine Coast Guard.
Ursula is expected to leave the Philippine area of responsibility on Saturday morning, if it continues moving west northwest at 30 kph, said PAGASA.
Christmas storm Usman, one of the deadliest tropical cyclones of 2018, left 156 dead and damaged some 32,000 houses in parts of Luzon and Visayas, the disaster agency reported last year.
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