MANILA— Weather system "Pepito" intensified into a severe tropical storm Wednesday afternoon as it crossed the West Philippine Sea on its way out of the Philippine area of responsibility, the state weather bureau said.
The country's 16th storm this year was last estimated 295 kilometers west of Dagupan City as of 4 p.m., packing maximum sustained winds of up to 95 kms per hour and gusts of up to 115 kph, PAGASA said in its latest weather bulletin.
It is forecast to exit PAR on Thursday, gradually intensifying over the West Philippine Sea. It may reach its peak intensity on Friday or Saturday as it heads towards Vietnam, PAGASA added.
All tropical cyclone wind signals have also been lifted.
From Wednesday to Thursday, Pepito is expected to bring light to moderate with at times heavy rains over Batanes, Babuyan Islands, Zambales, Bataan, Occidental Mindoro, Palawan, Western Visayas and Zamboanga Peninsula.
PAGASA likewise warned of flooding, including flashfloods, and rain-induced landslides during heavy or prolonged rainfall especially in areas highly susceptible to these hazards.
Pepito's strong winds and rainfall inundated parts of Luzon Tuesday evening, forcing hundreds of residents to evacuate as the COVID-19 pandemic persisted, officials said Wednesday.
"No major untoward incident" has been reported so far while some 9 villages in Nueva Ecija and Lopez town, Quezon were flooded, according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.
Some 1,000 vehicles were stranded along Lopez town's national highway due to flooding as of 8 a.m., local police said.
Meanwhile, PAGASA is monitoring the tropical depression outside PAR. It was last estimated 1,865 kms east northeast of extreme northern Luzon, packing maximum sustained winds of 55 kph, with gusts of up to 70 kph.
It remains unlikely to enter PAR, the state weather bureau added.
Visit the ABS-CBN Weather Center for updates.