Landslides, floods further threaten eastern PHL

MANILA — More rough sailing is possible in Eastern Visayas, Caraga region and other eastern areas of Visayas and Mindanao that are already reeling from this month’s rain-induced landslides and floods.

Expected near- to above-normal rainfall this February and March can trigger new landslides and flash floods in those areas and other parts in the country’s eastern seaboard despite waning prospects for the rain-driving La Niña phenomenon’s full-blown development, said the state weather bureau, PAGASA.

“Those areas can experience La Niña-like conditions so communities concerned must prepare for such possibility,” said weather specialist Rusy Abastillas.

According to PAGASA, most of the country’s eastern seaboard has Type II climate that has no dry season but is marked by a very pronounced maximum rain period from December to February.

“Very wet weather is normal in the eastern seaboard during this time of the year,” Abastillas said.

Even if La Niña isn’t full-blown, she said rain there in the next two months can be more intense than normal.

The La Niña and El Niño phenomena are the cold and warm phases of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) cycle, respectively, said experts.

They said ENSO is characterized by temperature fluctuations between the ocean and atmosphere in east-central Equatorial Pacific.

Among La Niña’s impacts is above-normal rain.

A study said several days’ downpour possibly helped trigger the large-scale February 2006 landslide in Guinsaugon village in Eastern Visayas’ Southern Leyte province, resulting in about 1,221 fatalities.

The bureau declared a weak La Niña that year, Abastillas recalled.

“People must be aware of La Niña’s possible impacts,” she said.

Earlier, PAGASA said oceanic and atmospheric indicators reached weak or borderline La Niña levels in October 2016.

Prospects for a weak La Niña’s full development remain dim.

Among the latest international forecasts is La Niña’s transition to ENSO-neutral condition around next month, PAGASA reported this week.

Even if such transition occurs, experts said La Niña’s impacts can still linger for some time.

The bureau expects above-normal rainfall to last until around March this year.

The northeast monsoon or ‘amihan’ thunderstorms, low-pressure areas, tail-end of a cold front and tropical cyclones are rain-driving weather systems that can affect the country from February to July this year, PAGASA added. Catherine Teves/