An early-season tropical storm has formed east of the Philippines and willimpact the nation through early next week.Tropical Depression 03W formed early Friday morning, EDT, and has sincestrengthened into Tropical Storm Aere, with sustained winds near 60 mph (92kph).

This storm has been moving slowly toward the northwest over the past day ortwo, allowing some of the outer rain bands to impact portions of central andnorthern Philippines.

Since Thursday, over 28 inches (700 mm) of rain has inundated the town ofCatarman, located on the island of Samar. Additional rainfall totals throughMonday can easily exceed 10 inches (250 mm).

A satellite image of T.S. Aere, courtesy of the U.S. Navy's FleetNumerical Meteorological and Oceangraphy Center.While Aere is currently a weak tropical storm, some slow strengthening ispossible prior to landfall late Sunday afternoon, EDT, over eastern LuzonIsland. Maximum sustained winds at the time of landfall may be as high as 70mph (110 kph).

Luzon Island is home to the capital city of Manila, located on the western sideof the island. While rugged mountains over central Luzon will prevent the worstof the storm from impacting the city, some heavy rain will still reach the citySunday and Sunday night.

Rainfall totals of up to 5 inches (125 mm) have been reported in Manila andother locations in southern Luzon. Additional rainfall will result in morewidespread flooding problems across Luzon.

Local officials have closed many seaports and airports ahead of the approachingstorm, leaving thousands of travelers stranded. These ports are expected toremain closed until at least Monday, when the storm moves away from the area.

According to the Philippines weather service, an average of nine storms andtyphoons hit the country each year.

Officials are hoping the early start to the season doesn't mean an activeseason. Many residents of Luzon still have the 2009 season fresh in theirminds, when Tropical Storm Ketsana and Typhoon Parma struck the region within aweek of each other. The combined storms led to some of the worst flooding inrecent history across Luzon.

Story by Eric Wanenchak, Meteorologist