Classified as a super typhoon, the Pacific storm Haiyan has made landfall in the Philippines, bringing top sustained winds that were measured at more than 195 miles per hour before landfall. The measurement reflects the winds sustained by the storm for one minute; the storm was also producing gusts of 230 mph.
Updated at 10:40 p.m. ET: Storm Strength Could Be Historic
The strength of the massive super typhoon could be record-setting, weather experts were saying Thursday night.
At 9:45 p.m. ET, The Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang reported: "With estimated maximum sustained winds of 195 mph, it is thought to be the strongest storm to ever make landfall anywhere in the world in modern records." Those winds speeds would be 5 mph higher than the recorded maximum sustained winds of Hurricane Camille in 1969, Super Typhoon Tip in 1979 and Hurricane Allen in 1980.
Jeff Masters, meteorology director and founder of Weather Underground in Ann Arbor, Mich., told Bloomberg that the power of Haiyan is "off the charts."
Update at 6:15 p.m. ET: Aid And Communication Resources
As has happened in other large events, Google has published a crisis and relief map, showing the storm's path and the locations of evacuation centers and other resources.
The Philippine Red Cross is also posting updates and news on its Twitter feed.
Update at 5 p.m. ET: Typhoon Makes Landfall
"Typhoon 'Yolanda' has made landfall over Guiuan, Eastern Samar," according to the Philippines' PAGASA weather agency's most recent advisory, issued at 5 a.m. local time.
Local news site ANC/Yahoo reports, "Typhoon Yolanda made landfall in Guiuan, Eastern Samar at 4:40am."
"The situation is potentially very destructive to communities," the weather agency says, noting the chance that trees, agriculture, and buildings could be destroyed in the powerful storm.
The typhoon will not be clear of the Philippines territory until early Saturday morning, according to PAGASA.
Haiyan, also called Yolanda within the Philippines, achieved a rare mark earlier Thursday.
"Haiyan has achieved tropical cyclone perfection," Florida meteorologist Brian McNoldy tweeted earlier today. "It is now estimated at 165kts (190mph), with an 8.0 on the Dvorak scale... the highest possible value."
Update at 2:15 p.m. ET: Winds Strengthen Further
Haiyan's maximum sustained winds have grown to 170 knots (196 mph), according to the just-released update from the U.S. Joint Typhoon Warning Center in Hawaii. Wind gusts are being measured at more than 230 mph.
The storm "has tracked westward at 21 knots over the past six hours," according to the update. "Maximum significant wave height ... is 50 feet."
Our original post continues:
Haiyan, which is dubbed Yolanda in the Philippines, is the most powerful typhoon so far of 2013. The name Haiyan comes from China, where the word means "petrel" (the seabird).
Thousands of people are fleeing the predicted path of the fearsome storm, which is expected to roar ashore early Friday morning, local time. (The Philippines are 13 hours ahead of EST, according to PAGASA, the country's weather service.)
Haiyan is expected to hit the region of Eastern Visayas. As of 11 a.m. EST, it was reported to be 130 miles from Guiuan, in the region's Eastern Samar province.
President Benigno S. Aquino III used a national TV address Thursday to warn residents that they face a "calamity" and urge them to follow evacuation orders and take other precautions.
"Let me repeat myself: This is a very real danger, and we can mitigate and lessen its effects if we use the information available to prepare," he said, according to CNN.
Fueled by warm water temperatures, the storm "has maintained a sharply defined eye with multiple concentric rings and a deep convective eyewall," the U.S. Joint Typhoon Warning Center in Hawaii says. It adds that the system is moving at around 22 knots.
"Due to the extremely favorable environmental conditions and recent intensification, the system is expected to remain at super typhoon intensity over the next 24 hours," even after making an initial landfall, the typhoon warning center says.
After plowing through the Philippines, Haiyan is expected to continue on a westerly track that will take it to central Vietnam.
A powerful storm that struck India last month brought winds measured at 120 mph.