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One of largest storms in recorded history strikes Philippines

One of largest storms in recorded history strikes Philippines
Visible satellite image of Super Typhoon Haiyan taken by the Japan Meteorological Agency's MTSAT at 0630Z on November 7, 2013.
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The numbers are unreal. Sustained winds of 195 mph. Gusts to 235 mph. It's not Hollywood, it's an actual storm -- a Super Typhoon -- that was bearing down on the Philippines with strength mankind rarely sees.

The U.S. Navy's Joint Typhoon Warning Center in Hawaii shortly before landfall said Typhoon Haiyan's maximum sustained winds were 314 kilometers per hour (195 mph), with gusts up to 379 kilometers per hour (235 mph).  It had been poised to be the strongest tropical cyclone ever recorded at landfall.

"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.

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.

"The wind damage should be the most extreme in Philippines history," he said.




It's difficult to put those numbers into perspective, but here is a feeble attempt to do so...

* At of late Thursday morning, NOAA had estimated the central pressure of Haiyan at 858 milibars, which if verified by an actual reading, would shatter the record for lowest atmospheric pressure ever recorded, currently at 870 mb from Super Typhoon Tip that struck in the Western Pacific in October of 1979. If you want to find 858 mb on your home barometer, you won't. That number translates to 25.34 inches of mercury. Which means the dial would have to spin around several times to register that number.

* To compare to U.S. hurricanes, the lowest pressure recorded was 882 mb (26.05 inches) from Hurricane Wilma in 2005.

* Haiyan is obviously a Category 5 storm. To reach category 5, you just need 157 mph or greater sustained winds. Haiyan has 195 mph. If there was a Category 6 or 7, this might have reached it. Ominously, the National Hurricane Center says for a Category 5 storm: "A high percentage of framed homes will be destroyed, with total roof failure and wall collapse. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last for weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months."

* As Haiyan swirled just off the coast of the Philippines, hurricane force winds (74 mph or greater) extended 100-110 miles in diameter across the storm, or about the distance from Mount Vernon through Seattle to Olympia.

* As mentioned earlier, as of late Thursday morning Seattle time, Haiyan's estimated sustained winds were 195 mph with gusts to 235 mph. That is about on par for wind strength as the estimates from Hurricane Camille that struck the Gulf Coast in 1969. According to Yahoo!, Camille had sustained winds of 165 knots (190 mph) with an estimated top speed of 174 knots (200 mph) but all wind measuring devices were destroyed in the storm so actual numbers are unknown.

Hurricane Andrew, also a Category 5, topped out at 165 mph sustained with gusts to 200 mph when it smashed into Florida. Hurricane Katrina reached a top wind speed of 150 knots (173 mph) but weakened to a Category 3 before landfall in Louisiana.

* Locally, the great Columbus Day storm of 1962 had a gust of 145 mph in Cape Blanco, Ore., 138 mph in Newport, 127 mph in Corvallis and 116 mph in Portland.

* Other ways to visualize 236 mph: It's roughly the top speed of a Formula 1 car, a bullet train goes about 200 mph, a 737 takeoff speed is about 165 mph, and Cincinnati Reds' Adrolis Chapman threw a pitch in a game a few years ago that hit 105 mph.

Or if you were to travel 236 mph, you would be covering just under 4 miles per minute. A particle blown from Tacoma would reach Seattle in 6 1/2 minutes. You could get from Seattle to Portland in 36.7 minutes.

Luckily there is plenty of advance warning with the storm but with a storm this strong, it's going to be difficult to find adequate shelter near where the storm makes landfall. Hopefully they were able to get in evacuations to parts of the islands more on the fringe of the storm.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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