While the world’s eyes are zoomed in on the US East coast, where 1.7 million people are told to evacuate in order to avoid Hurricane Florence damage, a much stronger storm is lashing out at Southeast Asia: Mangkhut.
Super Typhoon Mangkhut deserves all the superlatives it can get. By far the strongest storm of the season, it is already causing sustained winds of up to 127 mph (204 km/h) and gusts of up to 158 mph (254 km/h). In terms of total intensity, Mangkhut is more dangerous than Florence, but the overall damage will depend on what it hits. If it hits land directly, it could cause tremendous damage.
Although Florence, will hit areas with more costly infrastructure (including several nuclear plants), Mangkhut has stronger winds, a higher storm surge, and an overall larger area — meaning that it threatens to pose a much more serious threat to life. Already, the Asian hurricane broke right through the Marshall Islands and Guam, a US territory, leaving much of Guam without electricity, destroying houses and electricity poles, uprooting trees, and flooding large areas.
Right now, it seems that the Philippines are next in line to be hit by Mangkhut. Already, people have begun evacuating, closing schools, and preparing for the worst. Even down in Hong Kong, people are stockpiling food and placing sandbags in front of their shops and houses to prevent some of the flooding.
Southeast Asia is also expecting another storm: Tropical Storm Barijat. However, at least so far, this is a much smaller and less intense storm than Mangkhut or Florence. As of Thursday morning, Barijat was moving across the western Pacific Ocean with a wind speed of 29 mph (47 km/h), according to Cyclocane, a storm-tracking website. Even so, China has already evacuated 12,000 people from its low-lying coastal areas, according to state-run news agency Xinhua.
There is still a chance that the hurricane will only marginally hit land, and avoid some of the populated areas. But, for now, things aren’t looking good.