Typhoon Lupit weakened into a tropical storm Friday after zigzagging around the rain-soaked northern Philippines and living up to its name — meaning cruel in Filipino — by keeping weary residents on edge and forecasters guessing.
The third successive storm in a month has been hovering for several days near the coast and inland mountains, sending thousands to seek shelter following two back-to-back typhoons that killed nearly 1,000 people, most of them buried in dozens of mudslides.
Lupit's erratic direction baffled forecasters and frustrated the local media who kept predicting its landfall every day. The weather bureau said in a nationally televised briefing Thursday evening that Lupit would ram into northeastern Cagayan province early Friday.
But as of late Friday, the tropical storm was almost stationary northeast off Cagayan, packing winds of up to 65 miles per hour and gusts of up to 81 mph.
Prisco Nilo, the head of the weather bureau, said Lupit was expected to remain almost stationary for the next 12 hours, causing rains, strong winds and possible storm surges along the Philippines' northern tip.
Taiwan, Japan in path?
Authorities said it was slowly drifting northward and may even spare the country.
"It may instead hit Taiwan, or it may not hit Taiwan and go straight to Japan, but its too early to say," chief forecaster Nathaniel Cruz said.
After crawling for the last two days, Lupit barreled on course to hit shore, then stalled again Friday due to two high-pressure areas that sandwiched it from the South China Sea in the west and the Pacific Ocean in the east, each pulling the storm in its direction, Cruz added.
Typhoons usually slice through the northern Philippines from the Pacific and exit through the South China Sea. The archipelago nation, known as the welcome mat for typhoons, gets about 20 a year during the rainy season from June to December.
Despite losing strength, Lupit was still a dangerous system that could drench the north of the main island of Luzon on the heels of the worst flooding in the Philippines in 40 years.
Tropical Storm Ketsana on Sept. 26 inundated much of the capital, Manila, and nearby areas, including the country's largest Lake Laguna, killing 464 people. It was followed by Typhoon Parma, which unleashed mudslides along the Cordillera mountain range Oct. 3, leaving 465 dead.
For the past week, army troops and disaster-relief officials have ferried tons of canned food and clothes and moved rubber boats and helicopters along the coast and the interior.
At least 1,500 residents living along the Cagayan River and its tributaries were moved to high ground, said provincial Gov. Alvaro Antonio. Another 1,000 people left their homes in Appari township, including some 200 after a wave surge collapsed a 65-foot high sea wall in San Antonio village early this week.