MANILA, Philippines (AP) — One of the most powerful typhoons ever recorded slammed into the Philippines early Friday, with one weather expert warning of catastrophic damage.
The U.S. Navy’s Joint Typhoon Warning Center shortly before Typhoon Haiyan’s landfall said its maximum sustained winds were 314 kilometers per hour (195 mph), with gusts up to 379 kilometers per hour (235 mph).
“195-mile-per-hour winds, there aren’t too many buildings constructed that can withstand that kind of wind,” said Jeff Masters, a former hurricane meteorologist who is meteorology director at the private firm Weather Underground.
Masters said the storm had been poised to be the strongest tropical cyclone ever recorded at landfall. He warned of “catastrophic damage.”
Local authorities reported having troubles reaching colleagues in the landfall area.
The local weather bureau had a lower reading on the storm’s power, saying its speed at landfall in Eastern Samar province’s Guiuan township had sustained winds at 235 kilometers (147 miles) per hour, with gusts of 275 kph (170 mph). The bureau takes measures based on longer periods of time.
Authorities in Guiuan could not be reached for word of any deaths or damage, regional civil defense chief Rey Gozon told DZBB radio. Forecaster Mario Palafox with the national weather bureau said it had lost contact with its staff in the landfall area.
The storm was not expected to directly hit the flood-prone capital, Manila, further north.
More than 125,000 people had been evacuated from towns and villages in the typhoon’s path, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said.
Haiyan’s wind strength at landfall had been expected to beat out Hurricane Camille, which was 305 kilometers per hour (190 mph) at landfall in the United States in 1969, Masters said.
The only tiny bright side is that it’s a fast-moving storm, so flooding from heavy rain — which usually causes the most deaths from typhoons in the Philippines — may not be as bad, Masters said.