Typhoon Rai defies expectations, regains former strength

By Gia Chinh, Phan Anh   December 18, 2021 | 07:09 pm PT
Typhoon Rai defies expectations, regains former strength
Satellite image of Typhoon Rai nears the shores of Vietnam. Photo courtesy of the National Center for Hydro-Meteorological Forecasting
Typhoon Rai has overturned earlier forecasts that it would weaken as it moved closer to the Vietnamese coast, regaining its strength to become a super typhoon, meteorologists say.

At around 9 a.m. Sunday, the typhoon was about 205 km away from the south-central province of Binh Dinh, according to the National Center for Hydro-Meteorological Forecasting. It was carrying maximum wind speeds of 165 kph.

In the next three hours, the typhoon would move northwest at 15-20 kph, the center predicted.

Earlier this morning, when the storm was about 260 km away off the coasts of Binh Dinh and Khanh Hoa, it gained strength and became a Category 5 storm (classified as having wind speeds of over 252 kph), according to the Tropical Storm Risk website maintained by University College London in the U.K.

Rai is expected to sustain its strength as it reaches about 150 km off the coasts of Quang Ngai and Phu Yen provinces before switching direction and moving north-northwest, weakening to a Category 4 storm (wind speeds between 209 and 251 kph).

The Vietnamese forecasting center warned of strong winds and rough seas in Thua Thien-Hue, Da Nang, Quang Nam, Quang Ngai, Binh Dinh and Phu Yen until Monday. Rainfall of up to 150 mm is likely on Sunday in provinces from Thua Thien-Hue to Phu Yen, it said.

Rai, the ninth storm to appear in the South China Sea this year, reached the level of a super typhoon when it hit the Philippines, before weakening and strengthening itself again.

International forecasters did not expect that the typhoon would regain its former strength when it entered sea region in south-central Vietnam.

The strongest typhoon to hit the Philippines this year, Rai has left at least 75 people dead, AFP reported.

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