“We were not expecting this kind of typhoon which is stronger than Rosing which hit the island in 1995,” Governor Joseph Cua said at the capitol last week. “I believe its winds were more than 300 kph based on my experience.”
He based his opinion on the fact that a 40-footer container van with loaded material was blown by the Rolly’s winds up over a perimeter fence, landing some 100 meters away.
He could be right, as far as Rolly’s strength and intensity is concerned.
According to weather agencies, Super Typhoon Rolly, with the international name of Goni, made landfall in Catanduanes as a Category 5 cyclone on the Saffir-Simpson scale and became the strongest tropical cyclone to make landfall anywhere in the world in recorded meteorological history.
It is said that before hitting the island, Goni had 10-minute sustained winds of 220 kph (140 mph) and a minimum central pressure of 905 millibars, making it one of the most intense cyclones on record.
The US Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC) estimated it had 1-minute sustained winds of 315 km/h (195 mph), tying with Haiyan (Yolanda in 2013) and Meranti in 2016 as the highest reliably estimated in the Eastern Hemisphere.
On Nov. 7, 2013, Haiyan was estimated to have attained one-minute sustained winds of 315 km/h (195 mph) and gusts up to 380 kph (235 mph) but made landfall at Guiuan, Samar with an unofficial, one-minute sustained winds of 305 kph (190 mph) .
Hours before Rolly’s first landfall, PAGASA upgraded it into a super typhoon and raised Public Storm Signal #5, the second time the highest wind signal was raised in the country after Yolanda in 2013.
At 4:50 A.M. of Nov. 1 (Sunday), it made landfall in Bato town at peak intensity, with its 1-minute sustained winds of 315 kph making Rolly/Goni the strongest recorded tropical cyclone to ever make landfall anywhere in the world.
It made additional landfalls in Tiwi, Albay at 7:20 A.M. and San Narciso, Quezon at 12 noon that same day.
PAGASA Virac officer-in-charge Juan Pantino Jr. told the Tribune that at 4 A.M. of Nov. 1, Rolly’s eyewall was already over the Doppler Radar Station at Buenavista, Bato, where he and four other personnel were deployed to monitor the typhoon.
By this time, he said, the station recorded sustained winds of 280 kph, some 30 minutes before the typhoon’s pinhole eye passed over.
Several minutes later, the image of the storm seen on the computer sported concentric outer red bands, indicating that something was wrong with the radar. At 4:40 A.M., the signal from the Doppler’s radome went out, occurring simultaneously with the ringing of a fire alarm rang at the ground floor of the radar tower.
This, and the fact that rain water was already pouring down the cables from the radome area, prompted Pantino to order his men to shut off the generator powering the station.
He claimed that personnel from the PAGASA central office estimated Rolly had maximum wind gusts of 320 kph.
Interestingly, this extremely powerful super typhoon’s feat of destroying the weather agency’s most modern radar system is the second time that this has happened.
Fifty years ago, in the morning of Oct. 13, 1970, typhoon “Sening” (international name: Joan) brushed by the island and took out the radar system of the then Philippine Weather Bureau.
At 2 A.M. that day, the howler was said to have 280 kph winds and a minimum central pressure of 905 mb, the same as Rolly’s. Unverified reports claim that before the US-made WST-77 radar at Buenavista was destroyed, it recorded a maximum wind gust of 320 kph, again the same as Rolly’s.
As the old folks then loved to recall, perhaps with a bit of embellishment, Sening was so powerful that its gusts were able to flip half of a coconut shell lying on the ground and lift an entire nipa hut into the air.
But the case could be made that Rolly/Goni is more powerful than Sening/Joan.
Super typhoon Rolly was able to wrench the slab roofing and its steel frame support from Grandstand B of the Catanduanes Sports Complex and send it flying about 100 meters away.
Thankfully missing several houses, it landed across the Gogon river just 50 meters from the first Moonwalk bridge. One of its ends slammed onto two nearly-finished concrete residential houses and sent the structures crumpling to the ground while the other end dropped way beyond the other bank of the river.
The middle portion of the by-now crumpled roof slab effectively dammed up the river, which overflowed its banks and sent floodwaters rushing down the road to the Virac Pilot Elementary School Junction and filling up nearby residential compounds.
Compared with Rolly and Sening, super typhoon Rosing (international name: Angela) was relatively weaker. Six hours before it hit the island on Nov. 2, 1995, the storm had sustained winds of 210 kph and a minimum central pressure of 910 mb.
By the time it made landfall in Pandan at about 8 P.M., its winds had decreased to 195 kph.
Three years later, on Oct. 21, 1998, the eye of super typhoon Loleng (international name: Babs) passed over the capital town of Virac at 8 P.M., with sustained winds of 160 kph and minimum central pressure of 940 mb.
On the other hand, Reming (international name: Durian) was slightly stronger when it clipped the southern part of the island on Nov. 30, 2006 with sustained winds of 165 kph. Twelve hours before it passed, it was clocked to have 195 kph winds near the center and minimum central pressure of 915 mb.