Typhoon Hagupit kicked it up a notch in intensity as it made landfall in the Philippines Saturday, according to the U.S. Naval Observatory’s Joint Typhoon Warning Center. As many as 32 million people could be affected by the typhoon, with top winds estimated at 140 mph, which makes Hagupit just a little less intense than a super typhoon and the equivalent of a major Category 4 hurricane, the Weather Channel reported.
The typhoon approached the eastern shores of the central Philippines Saturday evening local time, although it’s still unclear whether it will technically touch down. The country’s weather agency has issued warning signals for 36 areas, in anticipation of Hagupit’s potentially life-threatening storm surge, flash floods and winds, the Weather Channel said.
The typhoon has gained and lost strength on its path to the country, but AccuWeather.com meteorologist Anthony Sagliani warned “a deadly, destructive storm surge is still possible near and just north of where landfall occurs.” Meteorologist Ari Sarsalari told NBC News the storm won’t be as strong as Typhoon Haiyan but “has the potential to impact some of the same areas that were impacted last year.” Haiyan ripped through the Philippines only 13 months ago, killing more than 7,000 people and leaving 4 million without homes.
U.S. meteorologists predict the typhoon will head for Manila, the country’s capital, although its exact path is still uncertain. Half a million Filipinos have evacuated their homes, the Weather Channel reported. “I’m praying to God not to let another disaster strike us again. We haven’t recovered from the first,” Manila resident and Haiyan survivor Jojo Moro told USA Today Friday.