Classified as a super typhoon, the Pacific storm Haiyan is expected to make landfall in the Philippines within the next 12 hours, bringing top sustained winds currently measured at more than 190 miles per hour. That measurement reflects the winds sustained for one minute; the storm is also producing gusts of 230 mph.
Update at 2:15 p.m. ET: Winds Strengthen Further
Haiyan’s maximum sustained winds have grown to 170 knots (196 mph), according to the just-released update from the U.S. Joint Typhoon Warning Center in Hawaii. Wind gusts are being measured at more than 230 mph.
The storm “has tracked westward at 21 knots over the past six hours,” according to the update. “Maximum significant wave height … is 50 feet.”
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Haiyan, which is dubbed Yolanda in the Philippines, is the most powerful typhoon so far of 2013. The name Haiyan comes from China, where the word means “petrel” (the seabird).
Thousands of people are fleeing the predicted path of the fearsome storm, which is expected to roar ashore early Friday morning, local time. (The Philippines are 13 hours ahead of EST, according to PAGASA, the country’s weather service.)
Haiyan is expected to hit the region of Eastern Visayas. As of 11 a.m. EST, it was reported to be 130 miles from Guiuan, in the region’s Eastern Samar province.
President Benigno S. Aquino III used a national TV address Thursday to warn residents that they face a “calamity” and urge them to follow evacuation orders and take other precautions.
“Let me repeat myself: This is a very real danger, and we can mitigate and lessen its effects if we use the information available to prepare,” he said, according to CNN.
Fueled by warm water temperatures, the storm “has maintained a sharply defined eye with multiple concentric rings and a deep convective eyewall,” the U.S. Joint Typhoon Warning Center in Hawaii says. It adds that the system is moving at around 22 knots.
“Due to the extremely favorable environmental conditions and recent intensification, the system is expected to remain at super typhoon intensity over the next 24 hours,” even after making an initial landfall, the typhoon warning center says.
After plowing through the Philippines, Haiyan is expected to continue on a westerly track that will take it to central Vietnam.
A powerful storm that struck India last month brought winds measured at 120 mph.