Mekkhala Becomes a Typhoon As It Near the Philippines

Tropical Storm Mekkhala intensified rapidly on Friday and it has reached typhoon intensity.  At 3:00 p.m. EST on Friday the center of Mekkhala was located at latitude 10.9°N and longitude 127.5°E which put it about 280 miles east of Tacloban and about 500 miles east-southeast of Manila, Philippines.  Mekkhala was moving toward the west-southwest at 11 m.p.h.  The maximum sustained wind speed was 75 m.p.h. and there were wind gusts to 90 m.p.h.  The minimum surface pressure was 974 mb.

The speed of the upper level east-southeasterly winds blowing over the top of Mekkhala weakened on Friday and the vertical shear affecting the circulation decreased.  The combination of less vertical wind shear and warm Sea Surface Temperatures allowed convection to develop all around the core of the circulation.  Strong thunderstorms near the center of Mekkhala created upper level divergence and the storm intensified rapidly into a typhoon.  Mekkhala remains in a favorable environment and further intensification is possible before it reaches the Philippines.  Once the center of circulation beings to move over the islands, interaction with land will weaken it.

A strengthening subtropical ridge has been steering Mekkhala a little south of due west and that motion is expected to continue in the short term.  The typhoon could reach the Philippines in about 12 hours.  Mekkhala could turn more toward the west-northwest as it crosses the Philippines and reaches the western end of the subtropical ridge.

Since Mekkhala has intensified into a typhoon the potential risks now include wind damage, and storm surge in addition to locally heavy rainfall, flooding and mudslides.