There's something about Yolanda

The Philippines is no stranger to rain.  Every year, the country is walloped by 20 to 25 typhoons.

And then there's this one.

Typhoon Yolanda (or Haiyan, as it's called internationally), is the 25th typhoon to hit the Philippines this year.  A local paper claims it's one of the most powerful typhoons ever recorded.  It's even got one guy at The Atlantic wondering if it's the most powerful cyclone in history.

Yolanda is not your friendly neighborhood typhoon.  She's big (clouds affected 2/3 of the country at one point), fast (with winds up to 170 mph), and angry (damage could be "catastrophic").  To put her in perspective, Yolanda is like a Category 5 hurricane (Sandy was Category 1 when it hit the US).  Thankfully, Yolanda is not expected to hit Manila directly.  Not so thankfully, the storm is barreling right through the central Philippines.  What’s heartbreaking is that the area it’s hitting hardest was upended just last month by a 7.2-magnitude earthquake that distressed and displaced thousands.  This afternoon, one Filipina I work with asked for prayers for her family's safety.  They live in a high-risk area in the central Philippines and were battered by rain for hours.

Today in Metro Manila, my home for the last nine months, the weather was quite...unextraordinary.  Except for some ominous, low-hanging clouds, I couldn't tell this rainy day apart from any other.  Like friends back home, I learned about the storm swirling up trouble a few islands away on the news.

But last December, I was living in a rural part of the southern Philippines, and saw what a big storm like Yolanda can do.  At that time, Pablo, the strongest typhoon to ever hit the area, took over 1,000 lives and toppled power lines, leveled farms, and swept away homes.  That area is being rehabilitated to this day.  Small farmers, like the pastor-slash-banana farmer my colleague and I stayed with, were hit especially hard.

Thousands of folks have been evacuated, and one can only hope that the damage from Yolanda is limited and that the response is effective.  The outlook, at least, is positive: the saying "The Filipino spirit is stronger than any typhoon" has been circulating on Twitter (and it's not a stretch!), and the country's sustained annual growth suggests Yolanda won't be crippling.     

Yolanda is fast-moving and should be out of the Philippines within a few days, but may soon hit other countries in Asia.  Please pray for those affected.