THE state weather bureau’s station in Mactan, Cebu has advised the public, including the people living in prone areas, to prepare for Tropical Storm Auring, which is expected to bring 50 to 100 millimeters of rainfall in Cebu and other parts of Visayas over the weekend.
Flooding is expected as every one millimeter (mm) of rain is equivalent to 5,000 drums or barrels of rain per square kilometer.
The disaster management offices of Mandaue City, Medellin town and Cebu Province have started to prepare for the impact of Auring.
Jhomer Eclarino, weather specialist at the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) Mactan, said Auring was expected to intensify into a severe tropical storm before it makes its first landfall in Caraga by Saturday evening, Feb. 20, 2021 or Sunday morning, Feb. 21.
Aside from flooding that some parts of Cebu experienced last December, Eclarino said Auring could cause landslides in prone areas.
On Dec. 2, 2020, one man drowned in Danao City, Cebu and hundreds of families were evacuated after rains caused rivers to overflow and inundate communities in Danao City and the towns of Tuburan, Asturias, Balamban and Compostela. During this time, Pagasa Mactan recorded 36 mm of rainfall in its station in Lapu-Lapu City.
Eclarino said Auring was expected to hit portions of the Visayas, particularly, Cebu, Southern Leyte, the northern portion of Negros and Panay Island on Sunday morning and exit on Monday morning.
Eclarino said the earliest the Pagasa could issue a tropical cyclone warning signal (TCWS) 1 in Central Visayas is Friday afternoon or evening.
The highest possible TCWS that would be raised in Cebu is signal no. 2. The Pagasa forecast to raise signal no. 2 in central and northern Cebu.
Cebu will be cloudy on Friday, Feb. 19. But the province will start seeing light to moderate occasional heavy rains by Saturday morning.
Eclarino said the critical period would start in the evening of Saturday, Feb. 20 and this would last throughout Sunday, Feb. 21.
“We can experience moderate to heavy and, at times, intense or strong rainfall over all parts of the Visayas, including Cebu,” he said.
Sea travel is risky and fishing boats and other small sea vessels are advised not to venture out to sea from Friday afternoon until Monday, as they could experience moderate to rough seas with wave heights of 2.4 to 3.25 meters.
Auring, the first weather disturbance in the country in 2021, intensified into a tropical storm on Thursday morning, Feb. 18.
As of 10 a.m of Thursday, the center of TS Auring was estimated at 685 kilometers (km) East Southeast of Hinatuan, Surigao del Sur. It had maximum sustained winds of 65 km per hour (kph) near the center and gustiness of up to 80 kph.
Pagasa said it was slowly moving northwestward with the following forecast positions:
24 hours (Friday morning)—535 km East Southeast of Hinatuan, Surigao del Sur;
48 hours (Saturday morning)—315 km East Southeast of Hinatuan, Surigao del Sur;
72 hours (Sunday morning)—in the vicinity of Surigao City, Surigao del Norte;
96 hours (Monday morning)—85 km North of Cuyo, Palawan;
120 hours (Tuesday morning)—420 km West of Calapan City, Oriental Mindoro;
As of press time, no locality in the country has been placed under a warning signal.
In Mandaue City, the Disaster Risk Reduction Management (DRRM) Committee in Mandaue City has prepared for the arrival of Auring in the city, which is expected on Sunday, Feb. 21.
City disaster management head Buddy Allain Ybañez said they called an emergency meeting that was attended by the Association of Barangay Captains President Ernie Manatad, Bureau of Fire Protection, Mandaue City Police Office, Department of the Interior and Local Government and the City Social Welfare and Services (CSWS).
Ybañez said his office will set up an emergency operation center where representatives of each agency under the DRRM committee will be on standby 24 hours before the typhoon hits.
Ybañez said on Wednesday, Feb 17, they had advised the 27 barangays to prepare their rescue equipment and advise their barangay disaster personnel to be on duty this weekend. The CDRRMO personnel are also on duty this weekend.
Ybañez said they have prepared their rescue and emergency equipment, and their response vehicles have been refueled.
The barangays have also assessed the risks and hazard areas in their jurisdiction, particularly the areas with trees near electrical posts and telecommunication posts.
Ybañez said the canals and drainage in the barangays should be kept clean to prevent severe flooding.
The barangay captains have already coordinated with the principals of the schools in their barangays to use these as their evacuation sites.
The CSWS has also prepared relief goods for those who will be subjected to preemptive evacuation.
The public is also encouraged to prepare their own disaster preparedness plan by saving the hotline numbers of Bantay Mandaue posted on their Facebook page so the disaster management personnel could respond to any untoward incident, making sure that their gadgets are fully charged, and preparing enough food and water for their family.
On the other hand, the disaster management office will continue to monitor the typhoon so that if there is a need for evacuation, its personnel can immediately implement it. The office will keep an eye on barangays near the Butuanon River and Mahiga Creek.
He said their early warning system near the creek is ready. The siren will wail when the water level is already high, signaling for evacuation of the residents.
Cebu Province’s readiness
At the provincial level, the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (PDRRMO) urged its local counterparts to look for evacuation centers that can accommodate a large number of evacuees so the minimum health protocol such as social distancing can still be observed.
PDRRMO head Neil Sanchez said it would be a challenge to remind the evacuees to wear masks all the time.
He said his office intends to place Cebu Province on blue alert, which means that all the disaster management offices in the 44 municipalities and six component cities will be on standby; their rescue equipment must be ready; they must conduct an information drive to the residents about the storm; and monitor the barangays near the sea and rivers.
The Provincial Government during a meeting at the Capitol on Thursday, Feb. 18, tasked the local police to force evacuate residents living in coastal barangays or in areas near rivers.
In the northern Cebu town of Medellin, Mayor Benjun Mondigo said they have prepared for Auring by alerting the barangay disaster management offices.
“Instructions were already laid for their preparedness measures. We have been instantly updating them with forecasts from Pagasa,” Mondigo said on Feb. 18.
Medellin was one of the northern Cebu towns severely affected by super typhoon Yolanda in 2013.
The Cebu Provincial Government has set aside P200 million for the PDRRMO. Of the budget, 30 percent was set aside for a quick response fund while 70 percent was set aside for disaster mitigation and rehabilitation projects. (WBS, KFD, ANV)