25 November 2013
Super Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) Video: PREMIERE!

Finally—iCyclone’s video account of Super Typhoon HAIYAN (YOLANDA) is live!

This is a 12-minute teaser to a longer documentary, showing the monster, Category-5 cyclone making a direct hit on Tacloban City in the Philippines. From a deceptively calm beginning, the video escalates into chaos and terror as the violent cyclone rapidly approaches and engulfs the city.

This was a tough storm to shoot, and an even tougher editing job. I came home with a lot of footage, and trying to do justice to an event of this magnitude felt like an overwhelming task. But I feel good about how this came out.

An interesting side note: some of this footage was almost lost! At the height of the storm—as water flooded the building—I threw my camera into a flower pot in the lobby so I could help rescue trapped guests. The storm surge swept everything away. After the cyclone passed, I found the camera in the wreckage. It was ruined, but I salvaged the damaged memory card, and a data-recovery service back home in Los Angeles was able to save the files! In the video, these are the particularly dramatic shots that happen from 7:39 to 7:57 am.

Aside from the human drama that that plays out in the video, there are many meteorologically interesting details—so the video serves as a storm chronology. You’ll notice:

  • 6:47 am. Eyewall sweeps in.
  • 7:08 am. I note the pressure is 962 mb, which was close to the lowest value (960.3 mb)—meaning the center was making its closest approach about that time.
  • 7:25 am. The winds seem to reach a peak. 
  • 7:44 am. Storm surge sweeps in.
  • 8:45 am. The typhoon is basically over.

As you’ll notice, the typhoon came and went really fast and basically only lasted a couple of hours. The fact that such a small, fast-moving typhoon was able to deal such a lethal blow to this city is a testament to its incredible ferocity.

One other chilling detail: the neighborhood shown at 3:50 and 3:51 am is shown again at 12:49 pm (only nine hours later)—completely reduced to rubble.

On a happier note, I'm pleased to say that all the people you see in this video survived the cyclone—including the family struggling to cross the storm surge from 7:47 to 7:49 am.  (Many viewers have asked about them, and yes, they all made it across!)

James Reynolds and Mark Thomas were truly awesome partners on this chase, and I want to thank them both. I also want to thank James (and Earth Uncut TV) for allowing me to include the two short clips starting at 9:09—shots of me and Mark Thomas helping rescue hotel guests from rising water.  (Many have been asking about Mark, who injured his leg very badly during the rescue efforts. He is making a slow-but-steady recovery back home in Taipei, and although he faces more surgeries, the prognosis is good.)

This video is dedicated with love and sympathy to the Filipino people and the victims of this storm. If nothing else, I hope it serves as a valuable historical document of this truly incredible event—one that Tacloban residents, Filipinos, and people all over the world will be talking about for years to come.

—Josh Morgerman