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Storm Gains Strength on Track to Philippines

October 18, 1989

MANILA, Philippines (AP) _ Typhoon Elsie, the fiercest storm to threaten the Philippines this year, gained strength Wednesday and approached the main island’s agricultural heartland with winds reaching 127 mph, forecasters said.

U.S. Air Force forecasters predicted the ″super typhoon″ would hit eastern Luzon Island late Thursday and sweep across it between Manila and Clark Air Base, 50 miles north of the capital.

Philippine forecasters said it was expected to pass north of the U.S.-run base and attributed the conflicting reports to differences in interpreting weather data. They said the storm would enter the South China Sea sometime Friday.

Late Wednesday, Elsie was reported about 175 miles east of Casiguran, a coastal town 130 miles northeast of Manila, moving westward at 7 mph.

Storm warnings were issued for all of Luzon and residents of coastal areas were told to seek higher ground.

″Any typhoon of this strength is capable of massive destruction,″ said forecaster Vicente Manalo.

Manila’s weather bureau predicted the storm center would pass about 100 miles north of the city early Friday, toward the Lingayen Gulf.

The Far East Network, which broadcasts to the 40,000-member U.S. military community, said Elsie had veered to the southeast and probably would come much closer to the capital.

It advised residents of the Clark area to stock up on fresh water, flashlights, candles and other emergency equipment.

Air Force officials said the base would be virtually shut down if the typhoon threatened it. Air Force personnel scheduled for transfer out of the Philippines on Friday were asked to try for earlier flights.

A Philippine forecaster, speaking privately, said one reason for discrepancies in forecasts of typhoon paths was that neither Philippine nor U.S. aircraft normally flew into the storms to measure wind speeds and track courses.

He said U.S. Air Force planes once provided that service, as they do in hurricanes threatening the U.S. mainland, but the practice was stopped several years ago because of financial constraints.

Elsie would be the archipelago’s third major storm in two weeks.

Typhoon Dan hit Manila and southern Luzon on Oct. 10, killing at least 59 people. On Oct. 6, Typhoon Angela killed at least 119 people in northern Luzon.

An average of 20 typhoons and tropical storms strike the Philippines annually. Elsie would be the 17th of 1989.

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