2 storms, Florence and Mangkhut, different as water and wind

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Resident Joseph Eudi looks at flood debris and storm damage from Hurricane Florence at a home on East Front Street in New Bern, North Carolina, Son Sept. 15, 2018. (Gray Whitley/Sun Journal via AP)
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Residents walk along destroyed stalls at a public market due to strong winds as Typhoon Mangkhut barreled across Tuguegrao city in Cagayan province, northeastern Philippines, on Sept. 15, 2018. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)
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Motorists negotiate a flooded street in Manila, Philippines, before dawn on Sept. 15, 2018 following heavy rains and strong winds brought about by Typhoon Mangkhut which barreled into northeastern Philippines. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)
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Philippine police give out rice porridge to residents living along the coastal community of Baseco in Manila as they evacuate during the onslaught of Typhoon Mangkhut which barreled into northeastern Philippines before dawn on Sept. 15, 2018. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)
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Manila police distribute rice porridge to residents living along the coastal community of Baseco as they evacuate at the onslaught of Typhoon Mangkhut which barreled into northeastern Philippines before dawn Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018 in Manila, Philippines. Philippine officials were assessing damage and checking on possible casualties as Typhoon Mangkhut on Saturday pummeled the northern breadbasket with ferocious wind and rain that set off landslides, damaged an airport terminal and ripped off tin roofs. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)
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People wait in line to fill up their gas cans at a gas station that was damaged when Hurricane Florence hit the area on September 15, 2018 in Wilmington, North Carolina. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images/AFP)
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A car washed away by flood waters remains partially submerged as torrential rains continue after Hurricane Florence struck in Southport, North Carolina, US, on September 15, 2018. (REUTERS/Jonathan Drake)
Updated 16 September 2018
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2 storms, Florence and Mangkhut, different as water and wind

  • Storms in the western Pacific generally hit with much higher winds and the people who live in their way are often poorer and more vulnerable
  • But Florence’s watery insured damage total will eventually be higher, says Ernst Rauch, head of climate research for the world’s largest reinsurer Munich Re

WASHINGTON: Nature expresses its fury in sundry ways. Two deadly storms — Hurricane Florence and Typhoon Mangkhut — roared ashore on the same day, half a world apart, but the way they spread devastation was as different as water and wind.
Storms in the western Pacific generally hit with much higher winds and the people who live in their way are often poorer and more vulnerable, Princeton University hurricane and climate scientist Gabriel Vecchi said Saturday. That will likely determine the type of destruction.
Mangkhut made landfall Friday on the northeastern tip of Luzon island in the Philippines with top-of-the-scale Category 5 winds of 165 mph. Florence had weakened to a Category 1 storm with 90 mph winds by the time it arrived at North Carolina’s coast.
Yet a day after landfall the faster-moving Mangkhut was back out over open water — weakened, but headed across the South China Sea toward China. Florence, meanwhile, was still plodding across South Carolina at a pace slower than a normal person walks. By Saturday morning, it had already dumped more than 30 inches (76 centimeters) of rain, a record for North Carolina.
Experts say Mangkhut may well end up being the deadlier storm. As of Saturday afternoon, the death count in the Philippines was a bit higher, although still far below that of other storms that have hit the disaster-prone island nation. And with Mangkhut now headed toward the densely populated southeast coast of China, it is likely to cause more death and destruction. But Florence’s watery insured damage total will eventually be higher, Ernst Rauch, head of climate research for the world’s largest reinsurer Munich Re, told German media.


That’s because of a combination of geography, climatic conditions and human factors.
The western Pacific has two-and-a-half times more storms that reach the minimum hurricane strength of 74 mph. It has three-and-a-half times more storms that reach major hurricane strength of 111 mph, and three times more accumulated energy out of those hurricanes, an index that measures not just strength and number of storms but how long they last, according to more than 65 years of storm data .
So far this year there have been 23 named storms in the western Pacific and 10 in the Atlantic, both regions more than 30 percent busier than average years. Hurricanes and typhoons are the same type of storm; both are tropical cyclones, but those that occur in the Pacific west of the International Date Line are called typhoons.
The water in the western Pacific is warmer, and warm water fuels storms. There are also only a few pieces of land to get in the way and weaken them, said University of Miami hurricane researcher Brian McNoldy.
“If we are ever going to have a Category 6 (a speculated-on level that’s above current measurement tools), the western Pacific is where it’s going to be,” said meteorologist Ryan Maue of weathermodels.com.
The Philippines tends to get hit nearly every year, the Carolinas far less frequently though with lots of close calls, Maue said. That shows another big difference in the storms. Mangkhut formed further south and stayed south — over warmer water. Florence was out of the tropics when it hit land.
Because of that, Florence was weakened by the dry air and upper level winds of the higher latitudes. Not so the more southerly Mangkhut, which Maue said, “essentially had a perfect environment to intensify to a Category 5 and stay there.”
“Mangkhut and Florence are certainly different animals,” said Colorado State University hurricane researcher Phil Klotzbach. Because Florence is moving so slowly, he said, it will dump more rain than Mangkhut, which is named for the Thai word for the mangosteen fruit.
Both storms have lasted a long time, especially Florence which formed all the way over near Africa 15 days before landfall, McNoldy said. Both storms cover a large area, but Mangkut still dwarfs Florence. Mangkhut’s tropical storm force winds stretched more than 325 miles from the center, while Florence’s spread about 195 miles, Klotzbach said.


Economics also play a role in a storm’s impact. As a developing country, the Philippines is much poorer than the southeastern United States, which means houses tend to be less sturdy and first responders less well equipped, among other factors. This is one reason why, when disaster does strike, the effects can be devastating. In 2013, one of the most powerful storms on record, Typhoon Haiyan , killed 7,300 people and displaced more than 5 million when it swept across the islands of the central Philippines.
Straddling the famous Pacific Ring of Fire, the Philippines is also bedeviled by volcanoes and earthquakes, and while there are considerable patches of poverty in North and South Carolina, it is not the same as the rural area where Mangkhut hit.
Munich Re’s Rauch said about 30 to 50 percent of storm damage is usually insured in the United States but often less than 10 percent in developing countries, meaning nine-tenths of the people hit will end up shouldering a bigger economic burden.
In the United States, “you can’t move houses, but people can move out of the way,” reflecting mounting damages from storms and often lower losses in life, Vecchi said.
As the world warms from the burning of fossil fuels, the globe will see both more extremely intense storms like Mangkhut and wetter storms like Florence, Vecchi said.


Hong Kong bans pro-independence party

In this file photo taken on August 5, 2016, Andy Chan (R), leader of the pro-independence Hong Kong National Party (HKNP), gives a press conference at the start of a rally near the government's headquarters in Hong Kong. (AFP)
Updated 24 September 2018
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Hong Kong bans pro-independence party

  • The ban is likely to raise further questions about Beijing’s growing influence in the former British colony, which was promised semi-autonomy as part of the 1997 handover

HONG KONG: Authorities in Hong Kong on Monday took an unprecedented step against separatist voices by banning a political party that advocates independence for the southern Chinese territory on national security grounds.
John Lee, the territory’s secretary for security, announced that the Hong Kong National Party will be prohibited from operation from Monday.
Lee’s announcement did not provide further details. But Hong Kong’s security bureau had previously said in a letter to the National Party’s leader, 27-year-old Andy Chan, that the party should be dissolved “in the interests of national security or public safety, public order or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.” Chan had no immediate comment.
That letter had cited a national security law that has not been invoked since 1997. The ban is likely to raise further questions about Beijing’s growing influence in the former British colony, which was promised semi-autonomy as part of the 1997 handover. Chinese President Xi Jinping and other officials have warned separatist activity would not be tolerated.
Chan, the National Party leader, had previously told The Associated Press that police approached him with documents detailing his speeches and activities since the party’s formation in 2016.
The party was founded in response to frustration about Beijing’s treatment of Hong Kong. Despite a promise of autonomy, activists complain mainland influence over its democratic elections is increasing.
Chan and other pro-independence candidates were disqualified from 2016 elections to the Hong Kong legislature after they refused to sign a pledge saying Hong Kong is an inalienable part of China. The Hong Kong National Party has never held any seats on the council.