Rai currently has sustained winds of 110 km / h (70 mph), which puts it just below the force of a typhoon (119 km / h or 74 mph).
Favorable conditions across the region, including very warm ocean waters and low wind shear, are likely to lead to constant strengthening until landing.
Current forecasts from the Joint Typhoon Warning Center indicate that Rai will peak at 165 km / h (105 mph) upon landing. This would make Rai the equivalent of a Category 2 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.
In the Philippines, the storm is known as Odette and is monitored locally by the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA).
The outer bands of the storm will spread rain across southern and central parts of the country on Wednesday, according to PAGASA.
From Thursday morning to Friday morning, the rains are expected to be “heavy to intense and at times torrential,” PAGASA said in its forecast early Wednesday morning.
More than 250 mm (10 inches) of rain will fall over parts of Mindanao and the Visayas. The heavy rains are expected to cause widespread flooding, flash floods and landslides on higher ground.
Wednesday is a preparation day before the primary impacts. Conditions in the region are expected to deteriorate steadily on Thursday, with the storm making landfall Thursday afternoon or evening local time (early Thursday morning ET).
In addition to strong winds, flooding and landslides, coastal regions will be on alert for two to three meters of storm surge and shipping vessels will face extremely rough seas in the coming days.
December storms are not uncommon
In the Western Pacific, there is no defined “season” for tropical systems as is the case in other basins such as the North Atlantic (June 1 to November 30). While activity peaks in late summer through early fall, storms can occur any month of the year.
The Philippines was no stranger to the catastrophic storms of December. Over the past decade, numerous intense and deadly storms have hit the region.