One of the most powerful typhoons ever recorded made landfall in the Philippines early Friday. At 1,200 miles across, the storm is expected to inflict widespread damage. Meteorologists clocked the storm’s windspeed at 195 miles per hour, with gusts of up to 235 miles per hour. The US Navy weather center says Typhoon Haiyan is the strongest tropical cyclone to hit all year — and that’s saying something, since there have been 3 other super typhoons in the region in the past month.

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Millions of people have already been evacuated in the wake of the storm, which is throwing 20 foot waves against the shore. The brutal winds have been accompanied by torrential rain, and already three people have been reported dead due to debris.

The storm is expected to linger over the islands through Saturday, resulting in potential flash floods and landslidesin dozens of provinces across the country. Haiyan follows close on the heels of a 7.1-magnitude earthquake in the region that killed over 200 people, injured 1,000, and displaced 350,000. Inhabitants of many of areas affected by the typhoon haven’t yet recovered from October’s quake, living in simple tents instead of sturdy shelters.

While the Philippines sees an average of 20 typhoons every year, few have the potential for widespread damage that Haiyan has. Officials are already bracing for the worst. In previous years, the deadliest storms have had death tolls of over 1,000 people and caused over $1 billion in infrastructure and property damage. It seems likely that Haiyan will meet or even exceed that level of damage by the time the weekend is up.

Via Bad Astronomy

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