The Philippines

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Typhoon Haiyan

This page looks at the impact of the storm surge of Typhoon Haiyan. It serves as a segue between Module 5 in which we considered the anatomy and components of tropical cyclones and Module 6 in which we consider the details of community impacts and responses. On November 8, 2013, Typhoon Haiyan swept across the Philippines. Fourteen million people felt the effects of the storm directly. Approximately 4.1 million were displaced from their homes, and 6000 lost their lives. Below, you will explore further questions about why this typhoon was so destructive. The answers include the science of the storm itself, the geology and geography of the Philippine Islands, as well the population distribution and economics of the people living in the affected communities.

Tacloban City is home to more than 200,000 people, many of whom are poor. Much of the city sits at low elevation, with some areas being 2-5 meters above sea level. The storm surge was reported to be more than 5 meters. To appreciate the level of destruction in Tacloban City and some of the factors that combined to create such levels, please read the BBC article linked below. In the article, there is a short video that really helps to bring to life the misery following a catastrophe such as this on a densely populated city such as Tacloban.

Recommended Viewing

Storm Surge Simulation

There isn't any narration for this (:11) video clip. This video is a simulation of the approach and impact in Tacloban of the storm surge of Super Typhoon Haiyan. It illustrates how the magnitude of the storm surge increases as it enters a shallow bay such as San Pedro Bay, where Tacloban sits.

Storm surge of Super Typhoon Haiyan making landfall

Eyewitness video of storm surge destroying houses

There isn't any narration for this (1:09) video clip. This silent video was taken by one of a group of people who took refuge in a building in Tacloban. It illustrates the power of the storm surge, showing the height and energy of the water increasing until a house next to the building from which the video is shot is overwhelms and washed away.

Eyewitness footage of Typhoon Haiyan washing house away

Haiyan's Impact on the Philippine Islands

The morphology of the coast of the island of Leyte means that the storm surge was funneled into San Pedro Bay, where Tacloban is located. The storm surge simulation, the first YouTube video above, illustrates this well. This is a classic example of the phenomenon of a shallow bay magnifying storm surge as we discussed in Module 5.

The New York Times Asia Pacific Edition article linked below provides very clear spatial information and imagery that help us understand the impacts of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, particularly in Tacloban. Please take a minute to study the images and the map showing the extent of the storm surge impact, before going to Tacloban in Google Earth and answering the Learning Check Point questions below.

Recommended Reading

The map below illustrates the geography of the Philippine Islands and the “funnel” of San Pedro Bay, in which Tacloban sits.

Map shows geography of Philippine Islands and “funnel” of san Pedro Bay, in which Tacloban sits.
Figure 6.1: Why Typhoon Haiyan caused so much damage.
Credit: NOAA Office of Coast Survey
Aerial view of massive destruction in Tacloban following Typhoon Haiyan
Figure 6.2: Aerial view of Tacloban following Typhoon Haiyan.
Credit: Russell Watkins/Department for International Development [CC-BY-2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Learning Check Point