A “Grinch” named Nona (Melor)!
Last week Mother Nature decided to disrupt everyone’s holiday preparations here in the Central Philippines and present us with her own Season’s Greetings message… and a storm that could have easily been named “Grinch.” Just 11 days before Christmas (14 Dec), we watched a storm develop out of a small disturbance into a Category 3 typhoon, all within a 60 hour timeframe. Almost as soon as it developed and began making its way westward towards Samar, it became named Nona (Melor – international name) and further developed to typhoon strength as it passed along the Northern Samar coastline, and slamming into the Southern Bicol region as a low-level Cat 4 storm. It then continued westward and across northern Mindoro Island to the west before fizzling out in the South China Sea, but not before causing significant damage there. It all happened so fast, most forecasting agencies seemed to be playing catch-up all along with this system up until it was over. Here in Samar, we languished through about 8 hours of strong tropical force winds, and once again came away unscathed, faring much better than the residents to the north and west in the areas that were much harder hit by this Cat 3/4 typhoon. According to latest reports the death toll stands at 34 after Nona/Melor crossed the Philippines and unleashed damaging winds and widespread flooding rains in areas of the north and west of us here in Samar. Our condolences go out to those families that lost loved ones to this terrible disaster.
As is usual during storm events, our electrical service was intentionally cut off by our supplier as a preventative measure for safety. A brief synopsis of our experience with this storm had the storm approaching the NE Samar coast around mid morning on Monday the 14th of December. At 09:00am that morning, we were experiencing near calm winds and overcast skies here in Calbayog City and quicker than time elapses between breakfast and lunch, (about 11:30), we were experiencing the rath of steady tropical storm strength winds (wind speeds in the range of 35-64 knots [39 to 73 mph]). By 12:00 noon, our power was shut down and we languished through about 7 hours of strong tropical force winds, until about 19:00, before the winds began slowly abating. Throughout the afternoon, we occasionally received some strong typhoon strength gusts (above 64 knots). We suffered no damage to our home but did experience some wind-driven rain finding its way through the seams of our window frames and was nothing out of the ordinary, or what we normally deal with when horizontal storm driven rains show up. By the time darkness fell, it was time to crank up the generator to put some chill back in the refrigerator and to cool the house down somewhat. We didn’t need as much relief from the warmth as we did from the humidity. After tending to mop and towel duty for several hours to keep the floors dry, you can get a little exausted…and sticky. A couple of hours of air conditioning and the house got comfortable enough to settle in for a good nights rest. It rained on and off up until about midnight before tapering off and by the time we awoke the next morning, the winds were gone and the skies were bright again. By mid morning, the sun was making an appearance. The next day was like any other day after an onslaught here…people hammering, making small repairs to their nipa roofs, folks out sweeping up the streets – and by noon, life was just about back to normal, like nothing had ever happened. Every time I witness this, it is nothing short of a testimonial to the resiliency of the Filipino people and how they bounce back to their everyday lives as quickly as they do. I am always impressed with the attitudes and determination of the villagers to help each other out, so that things can get back to normal for everybody as quickly as possible.
Almost as fast as our weather turned on us, it left and we too quickly returned to a sense of normalcy. All the while the rest of the Philippines, along the path of Nona/Melor, dealt with very strong winds and heavy rains. The storm eventually moved out into the South China Sea and got sucked northward into a passing low pressure area (trough) and dissipated almost as rapidly as it all began. For many parts of Luzon, it brought some much-needed rain, some areas more than others.
Damage to Samar, Bicol, and Mindoro
For Samar, the hardest hit areas were Northern Samar, including the Capital city of Catarman, where the new Gaisano Grand Mall (which had just opened two weeks prior) suffered substantial damages. Southern Bicol also took the brunt of both strong winds and ocean waves and experienced much damage. And of course the island of Mindoro also got beaten up badly. The folks in Oriental Mindoro may possibly have to celebrate Christmas without power.
While life in the tropics, and specifically here in the Philippines, can be relaxing and trouble-free most times, it does not come without its own set of challenges – severe weather being one of them. Living here will test one’s perseverance and survival skills. When mother nature visits here (sometimes frequently) she doesn’t usually come unannounced, but she is on her own timeline and can pay a visit whenever she pleases – and sometimes on short notice, holidays or no holidays!
One positive thing for us this go-round… our two large outdoor holiday wreaths remained in place. At least we didn’t have to re-decorate for Christmas! And as water-soaked as they got, they still lit up when we plugged them in two days after. No sooner than the storm was gone, everyone was back on their holiday schedule and the Christmas caroler’s were out in force two days following the storm.
Make sure you visit my previous post A Typhoon for Christmas? about the approaching storm just two days before it made landfall in Samar.
Cover photo depicts devastation to homes in Bulusan, Sorsogon in the Bicol Province.
Thanks to the folks at Western Pacific Weather for the PSWS graphic.