Surviving a Super Typhoon – good news at last

by Dave from The Longest Way Home ~ October 19th, 2010. Updated on September 22nd, 2014. Published in: Travel blog » How to guides ... » How to live overseas » Philippines.
Heavy rain on Palm trees in The Philippines

Heavy rains and high winds pound The Philippines in Typhoon season, but have they finally got it right? And, as a tourist, how do you survive a super typhoon?

Super Typhoon Megi hits The Philippines

As many may have heard, the Philippines has just been hit by Super Typhoon Megi. Heavy rains with winds up to 260km/h (150mph): this is the biggest Typhoon to hit the Philippines in the past 4 years. Already at a maximum category 5 level, there simply is no higher level.

On average the Philippines gets about 4 big typhoons a year. This is not counting many smaller ones. Last year Typhoon Ketsana hit the capital with the loss of 100 lives and many thousands made homeless. Heroic Tales of surviving the typhoon emerged. Quickly followed by a finger pointing at the government for not being ready.

Was this year any different?

Early warning for an incoming Typhoon

Unless you are online 24/7 looking for earthquakes, typhoon, hurricanes, flash floods and any other natural or man made disaster, it’s in my experience, as a traveler, you will only learn about this as it’s about to hit.

And, only then if you happen to be watching international news, or you notice the locals looking a little bit more “talkative” than

Satellite image of Typhoon Megi

Satellite image of Typhoon Megi from the weather channel shows the Super Typhoons path


There are a few reasons for this:

  • most travelers are on vacation, and will not be watching the news
  • many locals don’t want to alarm the tourist
  • many locals will presume you know already

What should a tourist do if a typhoon hits when you are on holiday?

  1. Stay calm, surviving a typhoon or even a super typhoon is not difficult.
  2. As mentioned above, the chances are it will already be upon you by the time you find out. So, there is little point in trying to fly out, or take a long distance bus to avoid it. In fact, it will probably be more dangerous to do this. So, stay put, and wait it out.
  3. Don’t even think about taking a bus the next day, or the day after. Surviving a typhoon is not just about high winds. Landslides and mudslides occur not only during a typhoon, but also in the days following.  Don’t forget, just because the main typhoon passes does not mean the rain will have stopped.
  4. Make sure your accommodation is reasonably secure. In other words staying in a three story bamboo tree house is probably not the best place to be if you want to survive. A good sturdy hotel is usually the best option for a tourist.
  5. Try to find someone, or something that can give you an accurate assessment of what is happening, and the typhoons severity / duration.
  6. If you have time, stock up on water, food, batteries for flashlights. There’s no need to go overboard, but it’s important to have something to get you through the next 2 days. Shops will likely be closed, if you’re in the center of a typhoon. Running around the streets during a typhoon is not advisable.
  7. Stay indoors. Surviving debris that’s blowing around is not something that’s “fun” to do. Corrugated roof tops, electricity poles, wooden planks, and all manner of loose material will be flying around in the air. Again, stay put.
  8. In the event of an emergency: do as the locals do. They’ve been there before, and will have a better idea of what’s going on (even if it seems they don’t). Evacuation should it be needed will be done in a local language. So keep your head straight and just follow along. Help people where it’s needed.

Emergency procedures for surviving this super typhoon

I only learned about Typhoon Megi the night before. And, it was by chance as I flicked on a TV, which I rarely do. Confusion still rocks, as internationally it seems the Typhoon is known as Megi, and locally it’s known as Juan. Why is this? It’s confusing and surely can’t be of much use having two names?

However, the media is reporting that farmers were warned up to a day in advance to harvest what they could now. This is because after the typhoon, there would be nothing left.

Fishermen were banned from putting their boats to sea.

Evacuation of high danger areas began in earnest. And, residents in other areas began a move up to higher grounds.

The emergency services and military were mobilized to prepare for a worst case scenario.

Compared to previous typhoons

For the first time since my arrival in The Philippines I must say that the preparation for this typhoon has been taken seriously. And, it’s pretty good to see it happen.

There is a marked difference in improvement to the way the Philippines is handling this, compared to previous natural disasters. At least from where I am watching events unfold.

Whether this is due to Typhoon Ketsanah devastating the capital last year and shaking the establishment up. Or whether it’s due to a new government, or due to new systems being put in place. Or, a combination. But, either way, it looks like it’s been well handled. At long last.

“This is like preparing for war,” Ramos, a retired army general, told The Associated Press. “We know the past lessons, and we’re aiming for zero casualties.” (source)

It should be noted that the Typhoon this time is much further north in Luzon. Manila is basically untouched by it, so it’s mainly rural areas. Which may account for the difference in loss of life as well.

Surviving a typhoon goes on well past the storm itself

Don’t forget that even if the death toll is reduced this year. This typhoon will have destroyed a whole rice season harvest. Washed

Mudslide in Norther Luzon, The Philippines

My bus sits stranded as a mudslide wiped away part of the road in Northern Luzon in The Philippines

aways roads. Caused water shortages, electricity blackouts, and communication problems. Not to mention, wiped away and destroyed entire homes.

The aftermath of such typhoons is not just about surviving the typhoon itself, but surviving the days and months that follow.

Every typhoon has a silver lining

There is already at least one death reported from Typhoon Megi. And, I am sure many thousands of people will have been affected by the Typhoons damaging path.

But hopefully the precautionary measures taken, and implemented have saved many lives. And, reduced a lot of tragedy this time round.

The Philippines is at the forefront of some of the world’s biggest typhoon areas. If it steps up, it could one day become a world leader in Typhoon preparation and disaster recovery.

It’s not unheard of before. Learn from overcoming your obstacles , and you can then benefit from being at the forefront due to your leadership and experience.

Hotel search at the Longest Way Home

Planning on booking a hotel room in The Philippines?

Here are the best online rates guaranteed!

I recommend you try my own hotel search for The Philippines.


Coming Soon:

Some true life pain

and then

Can we talk Australia yet?

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21 Great responses to Surviving a Super Typhoon – good news at last

  1. ciki says:

    scary stuff! I was in taiwan when there was news of a typhoon, but it passed relatively quickly.. many flights were delayed, but we just got there!
    Luckily for us, no typhoons in Malaysia. Tropical Rain storm yes, typhoon no! Wow, so now that’s another feather in your cap – surviving the typhoon;) You’re practically Rambo.

  2. Jeff Mines says:

    I’ve always wondered what to do in a typhoon! Seems strange that this information does not appear on news or travel shows.

    Keep up the good work

  3. LeslieTravel says:

    Thanks for the tips! Hope I am never caught in one.

  4. Wow. Scary stuff. Truly scary.

  5. sealdi says:

    Great typhoon surviving tips for tourists (and locals)! Keep dry, stay dry.

    I agree that the Philippine government is taking good measures this time on disaster preparedness and hopefully in rescue and rehabilitation as well. As a survivor of countless typhoons and flash floods (living in a country that has an average of 20+ typhoons every year is no big joke, especially with climate change becoming a reality), I welcome this new development. Another way to improve is to work on improving urban planning and zoning of disaster-prone areas and making sure that the entire population follows it, and of course, weather forecasting.

    I agree too that every typhoon HAS a silver lining. I am not comfortable in saying this as it could imply another thing, but people in general work well together in adversity. It is when you see communities working together to “weather” it out together. As a Filipino I am optimistic that we can and we will “weather” this together better than we used to.

    • Very good point about climate change and weather such as typhoon increases. I wonder if the Philippines will still have 7,000 plus islands in ten years. People may laugh at that, but it’s a reality. 20 years ago Europe was safe. Now every year floods, snow storms and droughts effect them.

      I think 11 people have now died in this Typhoon. Maybe more once the full count of missing persons is in. It’s was far from heavily populated areas, so I wonder if the same preparedness would have worked should it have hit Manila? I would hope so

  6. Jenny says:

    Wow! That is insane… glad your safe.

  7. Tim says:

    For us here in Manila this recent typhoon was a non-event. When Ty-Juan made landfall we merely enjoyed nice cool breezes and sporadic rains. Now that it’s heading off shore the breezes have reversed, steady but gentle rains are falling and the barometer has not dropped below 1000 hpa. Honestly, it’s been rather pleasant here.
    Unfortunately farther to the north it’s been a different story. Two people have died. One man died trying to rescue his water buffalo and a woman died when a tree fell on her house. We can understand that the woman was the victim of an unforeseen event but many may question why a man would sacrifice his life to save a water buffalo. The answer is one of perspective.
    While modern farm equipment is available it remains unattainable for many poor farmers. It’s not unusual to see a man guiding and old-fashioned metal plow behind a water buffalo as he prepares a plot of land for planting. In fact, he is likely not even the owner of the property but is merely a tenant farmer who will have to share the harvest profits with the land owner. To this man the loss of a water buffalo has many catastrophic repercussions. It means he cannot finish plowing and planting which means no crops, no harvest, no money, no food and possibly being put off the land. Not only will he suffer but his family will also. Viewing the event in this manner it’s understandable why he waded out into a raging gulley of water during a category 5 typhoon to try and rescue the stranded animal. It also makes the event all the sadder as his family is now left to fend for themselves.
    While I sit here enjoying the cool breezes and gentle rain my pleasure is tempered by stories such as this.

    • Death count is up now. And I think it will be above the official number. But yes, in The Philippines a water buffalo can mean life or death to a family. The chain reaction will follow on down through the poor of this country. USA Aid of 100 million was promised. But I’ve yet to see an aid agency help replace some ones livelihood. Temporary housing, road rebuilding and emergency food yes. But yes, as you say, a water buffalo means life or death to some people, and to others a nice photo.

  8. GotPassport says:

    we’re glad you are safe. Take care. As always very informative post!

  9. I second that. Glad you are safe and sound. Everyone should read this informative post.

  10. i am so glad you are safe. YIKES!

  11. I always thank GOD for letting us survive this kind of tragedy and also thanking people for working hand in hand to get through this. May we all be safe everyday!