The Times podcast: Our Masters of Disasters know it’s windy, but they don’t understand why it doesn’t blow
This story was updated on February 25, 2020, at 5:30 pm ET to correct the number of fatalities in the plane crash.
A major hurricane is a lot of things. A storm that is devastating and historic and a monster that strikes on its own will have many of those characteristics. But none of them would describe Super Typhoon Mangkhut, which wreaked havoc across the Philippines.
Mangkhut is what meteorologists call a “mega storm” that was first observed on February 4. The central Philippines was the biggest focus of its wrath, with the outer parts of the country suffering from as much as 300 millimeter (nearly an inch) of rain. (A millimeter is about 0.39 inches.) Mangkhut was also the strongest typhoon ever recorded at landfall in the Philippines, and the strongest to touch land in the Pacific Ocean. It made landfall on the northeastern coast of Mindanao, about an hour’s drive from Manila.
The storm was so powerful at landfall that it tore down trees and tore roofs from houses and even from hospitals. Some 70,000 people were left without power in the four-day ordeal, according to a report by the Associated Press. (The number of buildings destroyed was higher: about 80, according to Philippine meteorologists.) Mangkhut left more than 300 buildings destroyed or with major damage.
As The New York Times’s Michael Schwirtz and I reported earlier this week, it is unusual that an active storm with winds of over 300 miles per hour would not have caused extensive casualties. (The National Hurricane Center listed the storm as having winds of 215 miles per hour; the actual maximum was 310 miles per hour, but it was recorded at a weaker intensity on different gauges.)
But this one didn’t. It was a calm storm that caused far less damage than the Category 5 storm that killed more than 1,200 in Japan and left at least 16,000 homes and businesses wrecked. And Mangkhut was