Written by VICTOR REYES and ANGELA LOPEZ DE LEON - DISASTER response and relief officials counted eight dead from tropical storm “Helen” which left the country yesterday.

The Ilocos Region has the most casualties at five.

With Helen’s exit at around 2 a.m. yesterday, the weather particularly in Luzon is expected to improve in the next three days, said weather forecaster Jun Galang.

Galang also said that due to the presence of a “weakening” southwest monsoon, Metro Manila and the western parts of the country would continue experiencing partly cloudy to mostly cloudy skies with occasional light to moderate rains.

But on weekend, he said that aside from light passing rains due to localized thunderstorms, most parts of the country including Metro Manila will already have a mixture of “sunny to partly cloudy skies” as the southwest monsoon continues to further weaken.

“So, for Metro Manila and most parts of the country, we will have better weather until Sunday with the possibility of only having passing rains mostly in the afternoon or evening due to localized thunderstorms,” he added.

Chito Castro, OCD-Ilocos director, said Armando Borbon and Jocelyn Ortega, both of Pangasinan, and Andrew Batara and one-year-old Princess Nathalie Jamon, both of Ilocos Norte, drowned. The fifth fatality, Sabino Mosquite, was electrocuted in La Union while trying to lift a fallen electric post.

Two others, in the Cordillera Administrative Region, were landslide victims Jonafe Pandosen and Ekmer Domines, both of Baguio City. Another victim, Fernando Dingayen of Apayao, was hit by a fallen tree.

Two fishermen from Camarines Norte -- Rodolfo Tayas and Winifredo Tojon – are missing.

Five dams in Luzon have kept their gates open until yesterday afternoon due to “high” water levels.

Hydrologist Jean Nievares said that Angat and Ipo dams in Bulacan, Ambuklao and Binga dams in Benguet, and San Roque Dam in Pangasinan continued to let out its “excess waters.”

As of 4 p.m. yesterday, the water level in Angat dam was 213.08 meters, which was still above its spilling level of 210 meters; Ipo, 100.30 meters (spilling level is 100.80); Ambuklao dam, 750.79 meters (spilling of 752 meters); Binga, 573.45 meters (spilling level of 575 meters); and San Roque, 280.43 meters (spilling level of 280 meters).

In Quezon City, La Mesa Dam retained its normal water level at 79.16 meters. Its spilling level is 80.15 meters.

Sunny, long weekend ahead - PAGASA

MANILA, Philippines – The country should expect sunny and fair weather for the 4-day long weekend, the state weather bureau said on Friday.

The southwest monsoon, which has brought heavy rains across the country the past week, has weakened. PAGASA said this translates to “generally good weather condition.”

However, PAGASA noted that isolated thunderstorms are still expected in the afternoon or evening.

In a press statement, Department of Science and Technology Sec. Mario Montejo said the sunny weather for the long weekend is “the best time to resume our usual weekend activities at home or elsewhere with our family and friends.”

“It is also the best time to do and hang the laundry, and wash off the mud and dirt that built up during the recent monsoon rain and typhoon Helen,” said Montejo.

PAGASA also said no tropical cyclone development is expected throughout its five-day outlook period (August 18-22).

August 20 (Monday) has been declared a regular holiday in observance of Eid’l Fitr while August 21 (Tuesday), Ninoy Aquino Day, is also a special holiday, which will allow a four-day weekend starting Saturday.

Shallow low pressure area

PAGASA is currently monitoring the formation of a shallow low pressure area (SLPA) east of Luzon.

The SLPA is expected to cause a southwesterly wind flow over the country, bringing light to moderate rains in northern and central Luzon and Mindanao from Sunday to Wednesday.

The weather system is still over water and could still intensify.

It will be called “Igme” once it develops into a tropical depression.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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