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Stressed Out Waiting for the Typhoon Ruby in Batangas

Image generated by Google Earth
from PAGASA coordinates.
So by morning yesterday, the weather gurus were more or less certain that Tropical Storm Ruby – international name Hagupit – was heading straight into Batangas instead of northern Mindoro as earlier forecasted.

I was thinking, “Great! Another direct hit!” You all gotta understand that thinking in Batangas, specifically Lipa where I live. Typhoon Glenda flew – literally, in many cases – over our roofs as recently as last July; and she was one nasty screamer.

Of course last night, at around 9 o’clock at night when Ruby was a mere 17 kilometres or so from where I live, my thoughts were, “Where’s the bitch?” The rains were incessant but not hard; and I can fart harder than the winds.

In fact, the local cooperative did not even see fit to cut power at least where I live; and that alone speaks volumes. Smiley.

There is still greasy weather outside as I write this; but the good news is that at least Ruby has finally boarded the bus out to where she will seek out more folks to creep out in the days to come.
How annoying was it, therefore, to wake up the following morning to filthy weather, obviously the storm’s tail. A quick check of the PAGASA coordinates showed it was southeast of Lubang Island in Mindoro, roughly 92 kilometres from Lipa, at four in the morning.

I guess you can say that, in a way, Ruby was nicer in front but nasty in the arse. Wink.

I guess that sums up how Ruby or Hagupit has been these past few days. Already, it holds the distinction of being the weather system that has stayed inside the PAR for the most number of days this year. It is not even expected to leave the PAR until at the earliest Wednesday night.


What has annoyed me the most about Ruby, however, has been that she has been this one unpredictable bitch. She spawned closer to the equator than weather systems normally do and was referred to by one storm-chaser on Twitter as a ‘low rider.’

At this time of the year, weather systems rather tend to spin towards the Visayas or Northern Mindanao. Because she formed close to where Yolanda did last year, then there was all the potential for her to be just as destructive.

Indeed, before long she became the fourth Category 5 Super-Typhoon of the Western Pacific since September. Phanfone, Vongfong and Nuri were all Category 5 but fortuitously curved back east to spare the Philippines.

Early Global Forecasting System models showed Ruby likely doing the same and sparing the country; except that, as it came closer to the Philippines, two high pressure areas started interacting with it.

One was just off Vietnam in the West Philippine Sea and the other northeast of the Philippines. An HPA is otherwise known as an anti-cyclone. Just nod your head and pretend you understand. If it comforts you, I don’t either.


Before long, the major weather agencies were forecasting that Ruby was likely to make landfall in the Philippines. There was a problem: the forecast tracks were widely divergent; and the agencies could not quite agree where Ruby was headed.

Most of the Asian agencies pointed at the Visayas, although at different entry points. If I had to lay blame on who caused the most confusion, I will have to choose the Americans at the Joint Typhoon Warning Centre.

Their early forecast tracks were the ones that, in hindsight, missed the target by more than the proverbial mile. In fairness, the weather analysts I follow on Twitter went on record to say that Ruby has been one difficult system to predict with any real accuracy.

Because the forecast tracks were so widely dispersed, then so many more people waited with anxiety over the past week or so. There was the little matter of Ruby being Category 5 at one point; so to take it for granted would have been foolhardy.

For those of us here in Batangas, the trauma left behind by Glenda is still pretty fresh. For my own part, I brought a transistor radio and two pairs of large batteries so I could monitor where Ruby was headed even after as everyone expected the power had gone out.


I did my own mild panic buying and stacked up on noodles and canned goods; withdrew cash from the nearest ATM; built up my water reserves; and made sure that my cell phones were fully charged as Ruby neared.

I am not complaining that all the paranoid prepping ultimately became unnecessary; but I am sure my preparations were mirrored in countless households around the country. Aside from this, there was also the anxiety of waiting and the obvious question will-she-or-will-she-not continuing to remain unanswered.

People who were quick to get on the back of PAGASA ought to know that, at least where Ruby was concerned, it was the local agency that had the most accurate forecast. However, that PAGASA had to crow about this to the media was, in my opinion, bad form.

Yes, they got the forecast track right. On the other hand, their web site was frequently unreachable either because of browser timeout due to heavy traffic or because of some SQL database error. If there are times when PAGASA’s web site should NEVER be down, that is when there are typhoons!

There was also this matter of the hourly updates not being hourly at all and sometimes being late as much as four or five hours. I am referring to the coordinates of the locations of the eye as Ruby moved along.


At any rate, something happened Friday afternoon; and I particularly remember this because Billy Crawford led a prayer for deliverance from Ruby on ‘It’s Showtime.’ In a couple of hours, the northeast monsoon began to not only blow but blow briskly.

Those living near sea level would probably not have noticed. However, Lipa is up in the highlands; so we know when the northeast monsoon starts to blow. It gets really chilly. These colder winds could do either or both of two things: push Ruby south or slow down its destructive winds.

As things turned out, Ruby continued its dogged climb north to reach us here in Batangas; but by the time that it got here, it had lost much of its steam. In fact, as early as yesterday morning, it was downgraded from a typhoon to a tropical storm.

I could not quite understand why yesterday’s evening news carried so much scaremongering warnings to those living in Metro Manila. Ruby made landfall in Laiya in San Juan at around 5:45; and from there it moved west as was forecasted by all the agencies who for once were agreeing with each other.

As for me, I do not recall that there was ever a typhoon that stressed me out as much as Ruby has; not just because she could not make her mind up where she wanted to go but also that she was one unwanted guest who planned to stay longer than anybody wanted her to.

There is still greasy weather outside as I write this; but the good news is that at least Ruby has finally boarded the bus out to where she will seek out more folks to creep out in the days to come.