Fengshen: deadliest Western Pacific storm in 17 years

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 3:19 PM GMT on June 24, 2008

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Typhoon Fengshen may be the deadliest Pacific tropical cyclone since 1991. The death toll in the Philippines now stands at 598 dead or missing on land, with another 800 missing and presumed dead in the wake of the sinking of the ferry MV Princess of Stars. Fengshen (the Mandarin Chinese name for the God of Wind) made landfall over the northern Philippines Saturday, triggering rains and landslides that destroyed 34,000 buildings and damaged 53,000 more, causing an estimated $100 million in damage. According to typhoon2000.com, the Philippines' deadliest tropical cyclones were Tropical Storm Thelma of 1991 (5101 dead) and Typhoon Ike of 1984 (1363 dead). Left off the list was Tropical Depression Winnie, which killed 1404 people in the Philippines November 29-20, 2004. It appears likely that the death toll from Fengshen will exceed Winnie's, making Fengshen the deadliest Western Pacific tropical cyclone since 1991's Tropical Storm Thelma.


Figure 1.The ferry MV Princess of Stars. Image credit: Sulpicio Lines.

The ferry and the forecast
The ferry MV Princess of Stars (Figure 1), operated by Sulpicio Lines, left the capital of Manila on Friday night before the storm, headed south for the 20-hour run to Cebu. At the time, Fengshen was a Category 1 typhoon, headed due west, and was located a few hundred miles south of the ship. As the ferry began passing through the outer spiral bands of Fengshen, the storm did a sharp (and poorly forecast) turn to the north-northwest and began a burst of rapid intensification to strong Category 2 status (110 mph winds), bringing very high waves and much higher than anticipated winds to the region the ferry was traversing. The waves battered the ship to the point where the engines stalled, and the ferry lay helpless until the strongest portion of the storm, the northern eyewall, passed over the ship and sank it. Why the ferry allowed itself to get so close to the storm in the first place is a mystery.


Figure 2.Visible satellite image of Fengshen at 4:55 GMT June 21, 2008, 25 minutes after radio contact was lost with the ferry MV Princess of Stars. The ship had left Manila in the Philippines about 8 hours prior to the accident for the 20 hour trip to Cebu. It appears that the ferry ran into the north eyewall of Fengshen when it was at peak intensity, with sustained winds of 110 mph. Fengshen was headed due west when the ferry set sail (track image, lower left), then made a sudden, poorly forecast turn to the north-northwest as the ferry approached the typhoon. Image credit: NASA.

Tropical Atlantic
There are currently no threat areas in the Atlantic to discuss. One computer model, the GFS, is forecasting a disturbed area of low pressure may form the the southern Gulf of Mexico's Bay of Campeche on Sunday. The other models don't see this happening, and instead put the focus of any development on the Pacific side of Mexico early next week. At present, this seems a more reasonable forecast.

Jeff Masters

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152. Drakoen
7:08 PM GMT on June 24, 2008
94E will be good practice for us. The closed low has become more defined on satellite imagery making it easy to track.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 31656
151. presslord
3:07 PM EDT on June 24, 2008
in Charleston any oak over 6 inches in diameter is sacred....
Member Since: August 13, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 10513
150. IKE
2:03 PM CDT on June 24, 2008
94E....fish-storm.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37860
149. Randyman
2:03 PM CDT on June 24, 2008
138. CaneAddict 1:29 PM CDT on June 24, 2008
Good afternoon all!

I notice over the past week numerous tree services have been all over the Tampa Bay Area cutting down tree's and trimming them, Even some of the tree's being cut down are protected. It's never been like this before and i'm starting to wonder if they know something we don't about the hurricane season...maybe they are starting to buy into the talk of some forecasters that we may see our first major hurricane in 80 years....



That's very interesting...What do you mean when you say 'all over the Tampa Bay area'? And what is 'protected' and how do you know those trees are 'protected'? Just curious...
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148. Drakoen
7:02 PM GMT on June 24, 2008
The EPAC system will be interesting to track as we wait for possible development in our basin. Visible and RGB imagery show a closed low is forming near 6N 96W. Another possible vortex is near 7N 93W. These vorticity positions are well supported by CIMSS 850mb vorticity maxima which showed a broad area of cyclonicity west of Panama oriented from the WSW to ENE marking the axis of these two centers. The models show a gradual increase in the maxima values the most dramatic from the Canadian model with peak maxima 50+ over the next 48 hours while the UKMET, GFS, and NOGAPS consensus keeps the maximum values within the 20-30 over the next 48 hours. The activity is being supported by the Intertropical convergence zone and an upper level anticyclone centered at 12N 105W producing diffluence in the upper troposphere. The Global models hint development with this system as it moves out to the WNW under the influence of low level East southeasterly flow with the surface High pressure over the eastern Gulf of Mexico.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 31656
146. Patrap
1:55 PM CDT on June 24, 2008
Utility Companies routinely cut back around Power Lines annually .
We have a Large amount of trees alongside avenues.
But they are regulated as to how they can cut some of the larger Older Oaks.
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145. Nolehead
6:54 PM GMT on June 24, 2008
well, since they are working on every artery going in and out of tampa, why not do a little tree work...cause you sure aren't going anywhere if you really needed to..that way while your stuck in traffic at least you won't have a tree limb fall on you while your just sittin and burning that costly fuel.
Member Since: June 3, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 1934
144. Littleninjagrl
6:55 PM GMT on June 24, 2008
Gotcha caneaddict. I live in town n country and haven't noticed any tree cutting/trimming. that's why I asked. Anything new brewing out there for us?
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143. presslord
2:55 PM EDT on June 24, 2008
according to Sulpicio Lines 42 people survived the incident...that's pretty amazing.....
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142. CaneAddict
6:53 PM GMT on June 24, 2008
138. CaneAddict 6:29 PM GMT on June 24, 2008

I notice over the past week numerous tree services have been all over the Tampa Bay Area cutting down tree's and trimming them, and i'm starting to wonder if they know something we don't about the hurricane season...

where about in tampa do you live?


I live in Saint Petersburg.
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141. Littleninjagrl
6:50 PM GMT on June 24, 2008
138. CaneAddict 6:29 PM GMT on June 24, 2008

I notice over the past week numerous tree services have been all over the Tampa Bay Area cutting down tree's and trimming them, and i'm starting to wonder if they know something we don't about the hurricane season...


where about in tampa do you live?
Member Since: August 29, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 843
140. Weather456
2:37 PM AST on June 24, 2008
The waves battered the ship to the point where the engines stalled, and the ferry lay helpless until the strongest portion of the storm, the northern eyewall, passed over the ship and sank it. Why the ferry allowed itself to get so close to the storm in the first place is a mystery.

I am still wondering myself.
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139. surfmom
6:26 PM GMT on June 24, 2008
Presslord, just highlighted and printed that out! Just loved the word chaos (i am a firm believer in it) and then neither one of my boys know how to use a sextent correctly. I bought them each one (jeeze expensive - for xmas this year more as a novelty, but....I think that's something I will get on them for) more knowledge is always good. One's a commercial diver (YIKES) the eldest, my young one is 14 --dives,surfs (along with horses& polo)I've always felt my job was to get them skilled in as many things as possible....(awesome spearfishermen, sailors,boaters, first aid responders, tool savvy, etc.,) but the setant that's one i missed........ok skimboarding teens have decended upon little mother w/car keys see ya later
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138. CaneAddict
6:22 PM GMT on June 24, 2008
Good afternoon all!

I notice over the past week numerous tree services have been all over the Tampa Bay Area cutting down tree's and trimming them, Even some of the tree's being cut down are protected. It's never been like this before and i'm starting to wonder if they know something we don't about the hurricane season...maybe they are starting to buy into the talk of some forecasters that we may see our first major hurricane in 80 years....
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137. HIEXPRESS
2:20 PM EDT on June 24, 2008
136. presslord
2:15 PM EDT on June 24, 2008
one more thought on the ferry disaster...
the storm did what the storm wanted to do...I'm sure the Captain had access to good meterological data...his mistake was he depended on it...there's a great quote on stormtracker.com..."...meterology is...an attempt to approximate chaos..."...the secience of all this is, more often than not, trumped by the art....

on my boat I have VHS, GPS, radar...all the bells and whistles...but I also know how to use a sextant....the ferry disaster is a perfect example of what happens when we get arrogant about the science and technology of all this....
Member Since: August 13, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 10513
135. moonlightcowboy
1:08 PM CDT on June 24, 2008
128. In a "foreign" environment, certainly. You will likely know where you are and be familiar with your immediate surroundings; but, you may not know where your next destination is and all that surrounds, associated, going to or arriving.

I've been to Mexico several times to the point of being comfortable, but on one of our trips down we rented a car to drive and sightsee further down the coastline. Let me tell you, PEMEX stations are not on every corner like they are here in the USA. Needless to say, we ran out of gas in the middle of nowhere! And, we really only knew "about" where we were. No cell phone and the weather was beginning to get stormy, too. Safety concerns became frontal! You get the picture.

Fortunately, eventually an old Ford F-150 pulls up with two guys. My espanol es muy poquito! We went together, loaded up in that truck. The driver indicated that he had to make a detour to get a gas can and I concurred. He turned off the main road and down a quiet, mysterious trail that led to a dirt pit. I thought, Ok, here it comes and I was avidly looking around the cab of the truck for a blunt object in case things turned for the worse. LOL, but turns out, it was a small construction site off the road and where his can was located.

He took us about another 30 miles south to fill the can and brought us all the way back, helped us get the gas in the tank and made sure we were off and running. Of course, I tipped him very generously and thanked them whole-heartedly. They were very nice and super accommodating, out of their way and everything. (I wondered if few in the US would have been so helpful?)

I was grateful and learned a valuable lesson - always know where you are and where you're going. Be prepared and expect the unexpected. And, even then, things can go wrong.

And, I only want to mention, too, that medical facilities in many parts of these third-world locations are not what Americans are generally accustomed. It pays to think clearly and think ahead.
Member Since: July 9, 2006 Posts: 184 Comments: 29610
134. surfmom
6:11 PM GMT on June 24, 2008
b/4 I go, leftovers, that was a question my surf friend asked me, what made it turn...I;m thinking the warm water channel, Like port Charlotte acted to Charlie
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133. surfmom
6:08 PM GMT on June 24, 2008
I am off --the realties of domestic bliss are calling me (young buck teenage males in need of ride to beach for skim boarding) hope to be back this PM take care all
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132. Drakoen
6:09 PM GMT on June 24, 2008
We'll have to wait on consistency and model consensus and go from there.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 31656
131. ShenValleyFlyFish
2:06 PM EDT on June 24, 2008
02. Patrap
Be careful mon. Folks might start consulting you before admin for help.

Maybe a they should hire you to run the Help.

Anyone else want to join a movement?
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129. OUSHAWN
6:04 PM GMT on June 24, 2008
I actually don't pay much attention to the models until a system has already formed. Most times than not when the models are showing a system forming it doesn't and vise versa. Just because the GFS dropped the BOC it doesn't mean something won't form down there. It's just a wait and see thing at this point.
Member Since: September 20, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 44
128. surfmom
6:01 PM GMT on June 24, 2008
Yup, I believe you summed it up quite nicely MLC. It's nice to review these things in a safe chat room. on the other hand faced with similar decisions --when/if someone chided me, or called me a wuss for erroring on the side of caution --I will stick to my guns. Often in foreign environments it's easy to "go w/the flow",but I can see how in the future I would handle such a situation
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127. stoormfury
6:02 PM GMT on June 24, 2008
for the MODEL runs consistency is key
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126. Drakoen
5:58 PM GMT on June 24, 2008
122. moonlightcowboy 5:54 PM GMT on June 24, 2008
109. There you have it, folks! Drakoen summed it up concisely imo. Expect the CV twaves to burst before long! It's going to happen.


Yea. Soon enough we will see those CV waves that develop areas of low pressure over extreme western Africa. (i.e. Dean 2007)
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 31656
125. stoormfury
5:55 PM GMT on June 24, 2008
MLC
you better believe it ,the waves will start to roll and something will give----lesser antilles should take note. this time the SAL will not be a saving grace
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124. Patrap
12:57 PM CDT on June 24, 2008
Those images are nice Large one's surfmom to see the "small scale synoptic details".

I just Lub saying that. LOL
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122. moonlightcowboy
12:52 PM CDT on June 24, 2008
109. There you have it, folks! Drakoen summed it up concisely imo. Expect the CV twaves to burst before long! It's going to happen.
Member Since: July 9, 2006 Posts: 184 Comments: 29610
121. moonlightcowboy
12:44 PM CDT on June 24, 2008
110. Surfmom, they may have thought they were sure, but no one is 100 percent certain - not WU, not the NHC or that regions meteorological bureaus. We all know stormtracks can change suddenly.

There was a CAT 1 south of them moving west? A turn to the north was always "possible!" It is always better to err on the side of caution in a situation like that. Of course, I'm sure the captain didn't expect engines to stall either. So, bad judgment and a plethora of circumstances sealed this boat's fate.
Member Since: July 9, 2006 Posts: 184 Comments: 29610
120. weathermanwatson
5:49 PM GMT on June 24, 2008
Interesting season.
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119. surfmom
5:47 PM GMT on June 24, 2008
WOW - just realize you can zoom in on that link Pat
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117. surfmom
5:44 PM GMT on June 24, 2008
Well, per my friend in PI, after he poked around here on WU, they made some changes with their wedding plans, and did tell some friends to just stay put.

Today he's says the surf is beyond amazing! Guess his young bride is a bit lonely on her honeymoon LOL
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116. Patrap
12:42 PM CDT on June 24, 2008


Gulf of Mexico (3) Channels (Updated every ~10-15 mins.)Link
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115. CybrTeddy
5:37 PM GMT on June 24, 2008
July's going to be interesting.
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114. homegirl
5:35 PM GMT on June 24, 2008
All right gang...we might have to start giving the gfs some merit...there seems to be a bit of convection firing in the E Carribean associated with a Twave...it's moving into an area of more favorable shear. Haven't looked at the latest runs for any other models, yet.
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113. Patrap
12:40 PM CDT on June 24, 2008
Checking the wunderground Tropical Page before leaving Port is a good thing maybe.I'd say too Mom.
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112. hydrus
5:25 PM GMT on June 24, 2008
HELLO PATRAP-DRAKOEN-Thank you for that link and info.I tried the preview June blog and kept getting ealy June.If you would both read my blog 703 and tell me what you think on that statement,i would look foward to your answer.
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111. surfmom
5:39 PM GMT on June 24, 2008
always interested in what you have to say StormW
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110. surfmom
5:37 PM GMT on June 24, 2008
so , for my learning purposes, EVEN if the captain & co., felt 100% sure the storm was going west, the ship should never have left port????....(for my future reference in case I am ever in a similar situation)
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109. Drakoen
5:39 PM GMT on June 24, 2008
If anything is going to form in the EATL and be tropical then it will have to stay below 14N in the EATL as sub-26C temperatures are too cool to support organized convection and a warm core system. All the other factors seem to be in play according to the GFS. High humidity levels, strong 700hpa Omega, and surface westerlies enough to induce a closed circulation, big reduction in the magnitude of the wind shear in the Tropical Atlantic as the Tropical upper tropospheric trough lifts to the north and west giving way to favorable upper level anticyclonic flow through out most of the TRPL ATL. With all these factors in play I see no reason why a strong tropical wave staying below 14N, especially with the 850mb vorticity maximum the GFS and CMC are showing over Western Africa, would not develop.

Here's a look at the SST's from NOAA:
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 31656
107. surfmom
5:34 PM GMT on June 24, 2008
hmmmm wonder if it is time for a new photo, mine's a year old...got a b-day coming up --just so hard to find anyone w/a waterproof camera, probably have to bribe my kid or get one riding a horse in some kind of weather
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106. Patrap
12:32 PM CDT on June 24, 2008
Exactly surf.
Major Ferry incidents are not uncommon in the Poorer Filipino regions.
But this one is a larger more Modern one with Radar and a Marine UHF that should never have left Port.
To flounder in a right front quad of a Major is a Disaster that should never occur.

What is most probably the cause..Human error on the Captain and Company.
They will pay morally and financially..but the loss of Life was preventable,
By just staying in Port.
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105. surfmom
5:18 PM GMT on June 24, 2008
new e-mail from my surfer buddy - he said we need to understand that the ferries are the life-blood to these islands and that they often run in very horrible conditions (that stateside would never happen) but again the country runs on these ferries. The other factor is that the people truly were told and believed the storm was going west (the only reason my friend said he had a clue about what was happening, was I alerted him and told him to keep checking WU) Had the storm continued west the ferry run was (for these people) no big deal --it had a full load on board and typically would make this kind of a run. My friend sends thanks to all of you guys, especially Hades who posted some good info on his blog.
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104. TheWeatherMan504
5:29 PM GMT on June 24, 2008
103. stoormfury 5:28 PM GMT on June 24, 2008
well it looks now that all of the notable prediction centres have stuck to the active hurricane season scenario and 2008 maybe yet another year of uncertainity. the GFS is now alluding to the start of the CV season.not surprising, because a number of factors seem to be in place for this to happen.SST off the African coast is 30deg C and above, pressures off the coast is around 1011mb and vertical wind shear is expected to weaken during the next 8 days. so with that in mind the cape verde season could well kick off in july. one must not forget that bertha which coincidentally is the next name storm formed in the eatl in 1996. with all of that said i will not be surprise with that GFS forecast


I agree
Member Since: May 18, 2008 Posts: 2 Comments: 1042
103. stoormfury
5:16 PM GMT on June 24, 2008
well it looks now that all of the notable prediction centres have stuck to the active hurricane season scenario and 2008 maybe yet another year of uncertainity. the GFS is now alluding to the start of the CV season.not surprising, because a number of factors seem to be in place for this to happen.SST off the African coast is 30deg C and above, pressures off the coast is around 1011mb and vertical wind shear is expected to weaken during the next 8 days. so with that in mind the cape verde season could well kick off in july. one must not forget that bertha which coincidentally is the next name storm formed in the eatl in 1996. with all of that said i will not be surprise with that GFS forecast
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102. Patrap
12:28 PM CDT on June 24, 2008
To change your avatar,just click on the Avatar here,and use the "Modify This Image" button down the page,upload new pic and check the "Primary Portrait for Bio" box.
Easy
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Dr. Masters co-founded wunderground in 1995. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990. Co-blogging with him: Bob Henson, @bhensonweather

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