The year 2019 is four days old and as it seems, the typhoon seasons from the previous year of 2018 and this one appears to have blended into each other. It was only days ago before January 1 when Tropical Depression Usman gave part of the Visayas a very late-year thrashing, which has left a number of dead and wounded, lots of evacuated families and millions of Pesos worth in damage. What was left of Usman after its Philippine transit was then absorbed into the first Asia-Pacific weather disturbance of 2019, which is now bearing down menacingly, south of Thailand.
CNN reports that the southern coast of Thailand along the gulf that bears its name is hunkering down for the imminent impact of tropical storm Pabuk, which is the opening salvo of the 2019 Pacific Typhoon season. With foul weather approaching, the Thai authorities have begun a lockdown mode that suspended all flights and ferry services around the area. That leaves thousands of tourists stranded in southern Thailand who must bear with the locals what meteorological observers are expecting to be the strongest storm to come calling for several years. The worst part is that they are many who got caught due to this happening in the peak Holiday period.
Tropical storm Pabuk came into being in the West Philippine Sea around December 28 of the previous year. Two days later on December 30 it merged with the remnants of tropical depression Usman following its swathe through the Philippines. Now it barrels westwards towards Thailand, expected to make landfall at 7 PM Bangkok time right this Friday, January 4, around the Chumphon archipelago which lies due east of the country’s Surat Thani and Nakhon Si Thammarat provinces. Even then, the locations mentioned are now beset with heavy rains, which will only get worse with time.
Thailand is rarely visited by big weather disturbances from the Pacific. The last tropical storm (same strength as Paduk) to do so was Heather in 1962, deluging 12 Thai provinces with 900 dead. Only once have they been struck by something as powerful as a typhoon was in 1989 with typhoon Gay. For the 20,000 or so tourists in Chumphon’s Koh Samui Island, they are in for some harsh buffeting with no escape possible following the archipelago’s isolation from the mainland after the transport shutdown.
In statistics gathered by the Thai meteorological department, tropical storm Paduk is packing 95 km/h in maximum sustained winds, able to whip up 3-5 meter-high waves to batter against Thailand’s gulf coast. The Chumphon landfall will be followed by another one on Surat Phani Saturday, before moving on out into the Andaman Sea next week.
Image courtesy of Al Jazeera