Super Typhoon Haiyan — which is being called one of the strongest tropical cyclones ever — has slammed into central Philippines, where it is early morning Friday local time, according to the Associated Press.
The typhoon was packing sustained winds of up to 200 mph and gusts of up to 225 mph as it churned in the western Pacific Ocean, which makes it equivalent to a Category 5 hurricane, according to LiveScience.
This is one of the strongest wind speeds ever recorded on the planet, says USAToday, adding that it’s “possible Haiyan could become the strongest storm ever recorded to make landfall, anywhere on Earth.”
Brian McNoldy, a tropical weather expert at the University of Miami told LiveScience: “It’s about as strong as tropical cyclones can get on Earth.”
The storm surge could reach up to 23 feet in coastal communities and rain totals could top 8 inches, according to AccuWeather.com meteorologist Kristina Pydynowski.
Thousands of villagers were evacuated as the storm approached on Thursday.
“There will be catastrophic damage,” Jeff Masters, meteorology director at Weather Underground told the Associated Press.
On its current track, Haiyan should pass over the Philippines through Friday night — including an area that was devastated by a 7.1-magnitude earthquake last month — moving out into the South China Sea on Saturday. The storm is expected to bypass the densely-populated city of Manila, the AP reports.
Haiyan is the the fourth typhoon to hit the Philippines in 2013 and the year’s fifth super typhoon — the term for a typhoon that reaches winds over 150 mph, according to NOAA.