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Typhoon Ambo makes first landfall in Philippines

By Maura Kelly, Accuweather.com

Typhoon Ambo, also known as Vongfong, has made the first of numerous expected landfalls over the eastern Philippines on Thursday. Although the tropical system has begun weakening, it will still forge a path of destruction over the country's northern islands through the weekend.

Ambo gradually strengthened throughout the week as it tracked over the warm waters of the Philippine Sea. On Thursday, the typhoon had wind speeds around 96 mph, making it equivalent to a Category 3 hurricane in the Atlantic and East Pacific basins.

This satellite image shows a slight increase in thunderstorm activity near the center of Typhoon Ambo, also known as Vongfong, as the destructive storm moves between the Samar and Luzon islands of the Philippines Thursday night, local time. Photo courtesy of RAMMB
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After developing over the weekend, the storm was given the name Ambo by the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration. The Japan Meteorological Agency is also monitoring this typhoon and is using the name Vongfong.

According to PAGASA, Typhoon Ambo made landfall over San Policarpo, in the province of Eastern Samar, at 12:15 p.m. local time.

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A few residents of Samar braved the streets as damaging winds and torrential rain spread over the island. Boats in other parts of the region were brought ashore as the typhoon stirred seas.

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Ambo has begun to lose strength as the center of the storm interacts with land. As of Thursday night local time, the JMA is reporting wind speeds equivalent to a Category 1 hurricane.

In preparation of the storm, towns forecast to be in the path of the typhoon issued evacuations and distribution of relief packages. A total of 515 families were evacuated from the communities of Maninila, Tandarora and Muladbucad Grande, all located in the Albay province between the cities of Naga and Legazpi City.

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Given the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic, evacuees were required to wear face masks.

Towns are not the only ones preparing for the storm. There have been reports of at least 20 cruise ships that will be moving out to sea to avoid bumping into each other while anchored.

The Samar province of the Philippines will continue to feel the brunt of the storm through Thursday night as Ambo tracks across the island. By Friday, the storm is expected to move over the southernmost portion of Luzon with typhoon-strength winds and heavy rainfall likely.

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Due to the shape and number of islands in the northern Philippines, several landfalls are possible, and each one that Ambo makes will increase the chances that the storm will weaken.

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According to AccuWeather meteorologist Dave Houk, the more time Ambo remains over the islands, the faster it will weaken.

"The mountains on each of the islands have the potential to rip Ambo apart and weaken it considerably," Houk added.

Regardless of the strength of the storm, heavy tropical downpours throughout the second half of the week can increase the risk of flooding and mudslides across the area.

"There will be a lot of moisture associated with this system, which will help to create a wide swath of heavy rain across the central and northern Philippines through the weekend," said Houk.

As much as 2-4 inches is possible across the northern Philippines, including in the capital city of Manila.

The heaviest rain is likely to follow the center and just east of the storm's path, as moisture is pulled in from the warm Philippine Sea.

The steadiest downpours are expected to remain north and east of Manila, but should Ambo wobble moving over Luzon, some heavier downpours may reach the suburbs, as well as Quezon City and Caloocan.

As Ambo continues to track to the north then northeast this weekend, it will bring some rain and gusty thunderstorms to parts of Taiwan and the southern islands of Japan. The exact track of the storm will determine the extent of the impact.

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Ambo is forecast to continue to weaken into the beginning of next week as it moves over cooler water and is absorbed by a nontropical system that will be tracking farther north over Japan.

Forecasters began monitoring a tropical low over the southern Philippine Sea last week. As the low gradually organized over the weekend, it brought heavy rain and thunderstorms to Palau.

Late in the day on Sunday, the low developed into a tropical depression and was given the name Ambo by the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration. The system was upgraded to a tropical storm on Tuesday then to a severe tropical storm on Wednesday. Ambo became the first named tropical system in the Northern Pacific Ocean of 2020.

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