Since Super Typhoon Haiyan (aka ‘Yolanda’) began swirling over the Pacific Ocean, scientists have described the Category 5 storm as the one of the most powerful, most destructive weather events in recorded history. But superlatives hardly begin to describe its overall impact.
Let’s first look at Haiyan’s speed. According to the Guardian UK, the super typhoon clocked in at 195 miles per hour when it first hit the Philippines. This speed allowed Haiyan to replace Hurricane Camille, which struck the Mississippi coast in 1969, as the fastest tropical cyclone on record to make landfall. Guardian also notes that three other storms have recorded faster wind speeds than Haiyan: Super Typhoons Nancy (215 mph), Violet (205 mph), and Ida (200 mph), all of which struck Japan between 1958 and 1961. However, at the time of landfall, the power of these storms had been greatly suppressed; in Violet’s case, it was downgraded to a tropical storm by the time it touched down, and only two people were killed as a result. Haiyan, on the other hand, made landfall at “peak strength”. The hardest hit areas received eight inches of rain (roughly 7 percent of the country’s average annual rainfall) in a span of 24 hours.
Incidentally, Haiyan’s force matches that of Super Typhoon Sally almost identically. The 1964 storm (the strongest of 39 tropical storms that struck the South Pacific during that record-breaking year) also recorded a top speed of 195 miles per hour, as well as the same central pressure reading (895 millibars) as Haiyan. However, by the time Sally made landfall, it was downgraded to a Category 4 typhoon; no casualties were reported as a result of Sally, although nearly 1,300 people (mostly in the Philippines and China) lost their lives to other storms during the 1964 season.
With a current death toll of 4,022 and more than 1,600 people still missing, Haiyan is considered the second deadliest typhoon in the history of the Philippines. Only Super Typhoon Uring (aka, ‘Thelma’), which struck the country in 1991, claimed more lives; as many as 8,000, according to Weather Underground. With the exception of Thelma, three of the 10 deadliest typhoons to hit the Philippines prior to Haiyan made landfall more than 100 years ago: Angela in 1867 (1,800 casualties), the October 1897 Typhoon (1,500 casualties), and the October 1617 Typhoon (1,000 casualties). Five of the remaining six have struck within the last decade, and collectively killed more than 6,700 people, roughly 1,000 more than Haiyan’s feared death toll.
Haiyan’s monetary costs are also staggering. Already declared the most expensive storm in the history of the Philippines, senior official Arsenio Balisacan told The Huffington Post that the total cost of rebuilding the affected areas may reach as high as $5.8 billion. To put that into perspective, Hurricane Katrina caused roughly $18.75 billion in damages, according to NBC News. But it’s worth noting that the consumer price index (CPI), or overall cost of living, for New Yorkers is more than double than that of Filipino citizens. If the CPIs for the Philippines and New York City were identical, the damages from Haiyan would have exceeded $11 billion.
It’s only been a couple of weeks since Super Typhoon Haiyan’s landfall, so scientists and statisticians are still calculating the storm’s overall impact. But make no mistake, Haiyan is not only the most powerful storm to ever strike the Philippines, but also one of the costliest, deadliest typhoons in recorded history, and affected residents face a long, painfully expensive road ahead.