Tropical Storm Ursula strengthens again en route to Eastern Visayas

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MANILA, Philippines – Tropical Storm Ursula (Phanfone) slightly intensified again and accelerated a bit while still moving toward Eastern Visayas late Monday evening, December 23.

In a bulletin issued 11 pm on Monday, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said Ursula is already 530 kilometers east of Surigao City, Surigao del Norte, or 505 kilometers east of Guiuan, Eastern Samar.

The tropical storm is moving west at a slightly faster 30 kilometers per hour (km/h) from the previous 25 km/h.

Ursula now has maximum winds of 85 km/h from the previous 75 km/h and gustiness of up to 105 km/h from the previous 90 km/h.

It is poised to strengthen further into a severe tropical storm before making landfall in the province of Eastern Samar on Tuesday afternoon or evening, December 24, Christmas Eve.

This is the newest list of areas under tropical cyclone wind signals:

Signal No. 2 (winds of 61 km/h to 120 km/h)

Signal No. 1 (winds of 30 km/h to 60 km/h)

PAGASA said strong winds will begin affecting the northeastern part of Mindanao and Eastern Visayas on Tuesday morning or noon; Bicol and parts of Central Visayas on Tuesday afternoon or evening; and parts of Calabarzon, Mimaropa, and Western Visayas on Wednesday morning, December 25, Christmas Day.

"Medium- to high-risk structures may experience light damage," the state weather bureau said.

Specifically for areas under Signal No. 2, PAGASA warned of damaging gale-force winds which may begin to be felt Tuesday afternoon.

"This may bring light to moderate damage to high-risk structures and at most light damage to medium-risk structures," said PAGASA. (READ: Why is it now called tropical cyclone 'wind' – and not 'warning' – signals?)

Meanwhile, heavy rain from Ursula will start on Tuesday as well.

Between Tuesday noon, December 24, and Wednesday noon, December 25

Between Wednesday noon and late evening, December 25

PAGASA reiterated that the heavy rain may cause flash floods and landslides. (READ: FAST FACTS: Tropical cyclones, rainfall advisories)

Starting Tuesday morning too, rough seas will be experienced in the eastern seaboards of Luzon, the Visayas, and Caraga. Similar conditions are expected in the inland waters of Southern Luzon and the Visayas between Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning. Travel is risky in these areas.

Maritime trips had been canceled as early as Monday. There are canceled flights for Tuesday as well.

Based on its latest forecast track, Ursula is expected to leave the Philippine Area of Responsibility on Friday, December 27.

Forecast track of Tropical Storm Ursula (Phanfone) as of December 23, 2019, 11 pm. Image from PAGASA

Forecast track of Tropical Storm Ursula (Phanfone) as of December 23, 2019, 11 pm.

Image from PAGASA

Ursula is the Philippines' 21st tropical cyclone for 2019, exceeding the yearly average of 20. (READ: LIST: PAGASA's names for tropical cyclones in 2019)

Ursula is also the second tropical cyclone for December, after Typhoon Tisoy (Kammuri). PAGASA earlier said it was expecting one or two tropical cyclones during the month.

In December 2018, the Philippines had a deadly tropical cyclone during Christmas – Tropical Depression Usman. It left 156 people dead and 105 others injured in Eastern Visayas, Bicol, and Mimaropa, according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.

PAGASA declared the start of the rainy season last June 14. –