..Tropical storm "Helen" has slightly weakened but is expected to continue to bring intense to torrential rains in Northern Luzon where 19 areas remain under public storm warning signals, the weather bureau said Wednesday.
In its 11 a.m. update, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomic Services Administration (Pagasa) said Helen now has maximum sustained winds of 75 kilometers per hour (kph) near the center and gustiness of up to 90 kph.
Pagasa, however, still forecast intense to torrential (20 to 35 millimeters per hour) within the 500 -kilometer diameter of the storm.
Helen was spotted at 40 kilometers south southeast of Aparri, Cagayan as of 10 a.m. Wednesday, Pagasa said.
Meanwhile, classes have been suspended as of 11 a.m. Wednesday at all levels in public and private schools in the province of Benguet and in the municipalites of Balayan and Sta. Teresita in Batangas and San Fernando in La Union.
Suspension of classes also remain in place for the following schools in Taytay, Rizal: Exodus Elementary, Bagong Pag-asa Daycare Center, Antonio Esguerra National High, San Juan Elementary, Manuel Santos High, Genesis Daycare Center, Pag-asa Elementary, Muzon Elementary, and Tapayan Elementary.
Pasay City also suspended its classes from preschool to highschool for public and private schools.
Work in the following government offices, except for agencies handling services during calamities, have also been cancelled: Baguio (all local government offices), Philippine Overseas Employment Administration in Baguio and La Union.
Public storm warning signal number two has been raised in the provinces of Cagayan, Isabela, Quirino, Nueva Vizcaya, Benguet, Ifugao, Mt. Province, Ilocos Sur, Apayao, Kalinga, Ilocos Norte, Abra, as well as Northern Aurora and the Batanes, Calayan and Babuyan groups of islands.
The provinces of Nueva Ecija, Pangasinan, Tarlac, La Union and the Rest of Aurora, meanwhile, remain under storm warning signal number one.
"Residents living in low-lying and mountainous areas under public storm warning signal number two and one are alerted against possible flashfloods and landslides," Pagasa said.
"Likewise, those living in coastal areas under public storm warning signal number two are alerted against big waves or storm surges generated by this tropical storm," it added.
Pagasa also advised fishing boats and other small seacrafts not to venture out into the seaboards of Central and Southern Luzon, and Visayas.
Helen is also expected to enhance the southwest monsoon that will bring rains over the rest of Luzon and Visayas particularly over the western section.
"Moderate to heavy rains and moderate to occasionally strong winds are expected over Metro Manila, Central Luzon and Southern Luzon today," Pagasa noted.
It meanwhile warned of possible flooding in areas near dams where water levels remain critical due to large rainfall volume.
Authorities in the following dams have been opened to release water as of 10 a.m. Wednesday:
-Angat dam, three gates at 3 meters each, releasing 444 cubic meters per second (cms) of water;
-Ipo dam, three gates at 3.3 meters each, 471.9 cms;
-Ambuklao dam, one gate, 190 cms;
-Binga dam, three gates at 2.5 meters each, 365 cms;
-San Roque dam, two gates at 1.5 meters each, 471 cms.
Gates of the Magat dam have been closed as of 5 a.m. Wednesday, even as the water level remains at 189.67 meters, close to its spilling level of 190 meters.
Other dams in critical levels are La Mesa dam at 79.16 meters versus its spilling level of 80.15 meters, and Caliraya dam at 286.76 meters and a spilling level of 288 meters.