DAVAO CITY—For the first time, people in the coastal towns of Davao Oriental saw for themselves what a typhoon was like.
“Even from the sound alone, it seemed like the wind wanted to eat us alive,” said Juvy Tanio, assistant of Mayor Michelle Rabat of Mati City in Davao Oriental.
Except for the Surigao provinces that face the Pacific Ocean, the rest of Mindanao is not often visited by storms, with only six typhoons making landfall in the area in the past 15 years, according to data from the US Joint Typhoon Warning Center compiled by The Manila Observatory.
Tanio said he was surprised to find the roofs of houses in the neighborhood were gone and trees knocked down.
“So, that’s what a typhoon is like,” said Tanio, who said it was his first time to experience being in the midst of a typhoon.
Between 1945 and 2010, only 35 typhoons made landfall in Mindanao, or about one every two years. An average of 20 storms or typhoons hit the country each year.
In September 1984, Supertyphoon “Nitang” (international name: “Ike”) battered Mindanao, with wind speeds of up to 220 kilometers per hour, the worst typhoon to hit the island in recent memory. Nitang killed more than 1,300 people.
Mindanao’s location near the equator makes it less likely to be hit by typhoons, according to experts. That was when global warming had not ushered in stronger typhoons in the country over the past few years and somehow pushed down the paths of certain storms down to the Visayas and Mindanao.
In December last year, Tropical Storm “Sendong” killed at least 1,268 people in Northern Mindanao and the Visayas, mostly in Cagayan de Oro and Iligan City. Most of the fatalities, who lived along waterways, drowned.
Tanio said people were still grumbling on Monday afternoon because it was “too hot.” It never felt like there was an approaching typhoon. Rain fell during the night. The nightmare started before dawn Tuesday.
“When the wind started to howl at 3 a.m., nobody dared to speak,” Tanio said. “Everyone was so quiet, we never heard that sound before.”
Davao Oriental’s Tarragona town, which faces the Pacific Ocean, was among those badly battered when the typhoon made landfall Tuesday morning, forcing the evacuation of close to 300 families.
“I live near the shore, so I’m used to big waves and strong winds,” said Vivencio Anislag, a resident of Tarragona. “But this one is something different, a storm is a different thing.”
At least one electric post and 14 trees were felled in Davao City.
Investment come-on gone
The city’s investment come-on as a typhoon-free area is no longer true.
“Scary,” said Patrick Ronolo, a student at Davao Oriental State College of Science and Technology.
“The wind was really strong,” he said.
“This is the first time we experienced anything like this,” said Flordeliz Bantolinao, a teacher at Baculin National High School in Baganga, Davao Oriental, where Typhoon “Pablo” made its landfall.
She said until Tuesday, she had never seen coconut trees falling down because of strong winds.
Sources: Observatory.ph, typhoon2000.ph, http://www.nrlmry.navy.mil with Inquirer research