Typhoon Yolanda, also known as Super Typhoon Haiyan, is now Category 5 and appears to be on track for hitting the Philippines over the next few days.
According to the Washington Post, the storm has maximum sustained winds of 160 mph and will likely be the strongest storm to form on Earth this year.
“Haiyan will rival Utor as the strongest typhoon to hit the Philippines this year,” AccuWeather.com Meteorologist Eric Wanenchak wrote, underscoring the severity of the storm.
Last year, when Typhoon Bopha hit the Philippines, it brought along 175 mph winds and killed hundreds of people. But the U.S. National Weather Service said that that Yolanda has “has developed to almost max intensity for a cyclone” and will likely intensify.
“Based on satellite imagery, [Haiyan’s] the strongest storm I’ve seen since Bopha (2012),” Ryan Maue, a WeatherBell Analytics meteorologist, told the Post.
The Sun-Star of the Philippines reported that in the Eastern Visayas area, officials are on full alert as the typhoon will enter the Philippines on Thursday. Rain and winds will increase across the eastern and central Philippines starting Thursday until Friday, and then the typhoon will likely hammer the islands.
“They (local disaster councils) have to monitor the weather for 24 hours a day and disseminate this information to their constituents. They have to revisit also their management plans,” Rey Gozon, chairman of the Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, told the paper.
Gozon added that if Yolanda “makes a landfall n the region, the people should seek temporary shelter in a sturdy building or in high grounds.”
The Joint Typhoon Warning Center is forecasting that additional strengthening will likely take place over the next few days.
And Yolanda could hit the central Philippines, which was affected by a large earthquake that killed dozens of people and damaged infrastructure in October.
Mario Peñaranda, who heads the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration, told the Sun Star: “Leyte and Samar area may experience heavy rainfall starting Wednesday night.”
“Possibly, the storm will gain strength as it moves closer to the Philippine area of responsibility. However, we are still hopeful that the storm will change its path,” he added.