Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Typhoon Utor

My second trip for USAID, my first trip to the Philippines... and my first typhoon, Super Typhoon Utor.
Yep that's Utor in all of its Cat 4 glory... and I'm in that dot labelled Manila. 

As impressive as Utor was from space, the punch on the ground wasn't nearly as impressive. There was a good wind whistling through my sliding glass door and a couple of downpours, but I didn't see even a single tree fall down. Manila was lucky - Utor stayed to the north part of the island. Communities there were not so lucky - and this coming after numerous other storms.

I've heard estimates from 11-25 named storms each year hit the Philippines. Not all of them become typhoon strength, and of those not all become super typhoons. [For those of us in DC, we know that names don't always mean that much - the derecho June of 2012 was far worse than Hurricane Sandy.]

People here are already murmuring about climate change -- Mindanao didn't usually have typhoons. Now the paths are pushing more to the south. The typhoon season is shifting from June to November to August to December. 

Climate change adaptation - sea level rise, ocean acidification, disaster risk reduction - are concerns of this well informed and vocal people. I am very impressed by the ability of the Filipino society and even parts of the government. Its easy to be in Manila and forget that this is a developing country. Similar to Indonesia, the rapidly growing economy is sky rocketing some while leaving many more in extreme poverty and susceptible to shocks, like Utor. Clearly, there is still work to be done, but there's a great base and people to make the work succeed.