Signal No. 2 in Guiuan as Tropical Storm Ursula slightly intensifies

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MANILA, Philippines – Tropical Storm Ursula (Phanfone) slightly intensified as it continued moving toward Eastern Visayas on Monday afternoon, December 23.

In a briefing past 5 pm on Monday, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said Ursula is now 670 kilometers east of Surigao City, Surigao del Norte.

The tropical storm is still moving west northwest at a relatively fast 30 kilometers per hour (km/h).

Ursula now has maximum winds of 75 km/h from the previous 65 km/h and gustiness of up to 90 km/h from the previous 80 km/h. It is likely to strengthen further into a severe tropical storm before making landfall.

Ursula is forecast to make landfall in Eastern Visayas on Tuesday afternoon or evening, December 24, Christmas Eve. PAGASA Weather Specialist Aldczar Aurelio said it is too early to determine the exact province where the tropical storm would make landfall.

The municipality of Guiuan in the province of Eastern Samar is now under Signal No. 2, the first area to be placed under that category. Below is the complete 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 warned that damaging winds may begin to affect Guiuan, Eastern Samar, on Tuesday afternoon.

Strong winds may also begin to affect the northeastern part of Mindanao and the rest of Eastern Visayas on Tuesday morning; the southern part of Bicol and some portions of Central Visayas on Tuesday afternoon; and some portions of Western Visayas on Tuesday evening. (READ: Why is it now called tropical cyclone 'wind' – and not 'warning' – signals?)

As for the rainfall from Ursula, here is PAGASA's latest outlook:

Between Tuesday afternoon, December 24, and Wednesday morning, December 25

Between Wednesday morning and late evening, December 25

Residents of those areas should be on alert for possible flash floods and landslides. (READ: FAST FACTS: Tropical cyclones, rainfall advisories)

PAGASA also warned that the Philippines' eastern seaboards will continue to have moderate to rough seas on Monday.

Sea conditions could worsen beginning Monday night or Tuesday morning, as rough to very rough seas may be experienced in the northern and eastern seaboards of Bicol and the eastern seaboards of Eastern Visayas and Caraga. Travel will be risky, especially for those using small vessels.

Maritime trips in areas under tropical cyclone wind signals have been canceled. Ursula has also triggered flight cancellations, disrupting Filipinos' holiday travel plans.

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, 5 pm. Image from PAGASA

Forecast track of Tropical Storm Ursula (Phanfone) as of December 23, 2019, 5 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. –