At time of writing we are taking a direct hit from the typhoon. It’s the strongest I’ve experienced since I was in Taiwan. The last typhoon I saw in typhoon I saw a roof lifted and dumped onto the road below my apartment, where a driver stopped and stared at it for a good five minutes before his senses returned. Below is the clean up of that roof. I don’t remember why I didn’t photograph the actual incident. I just heard the loud crashing sound from inside my apartment.
Roofs can be deadly flying debris during a typhoon. Photo taken in Taiwan, 2005.
Wind gusts of over 250km/h or about 125kt are strong enough for any flying debris to be deadly. DO NOT GO OUT if it is anywhere close to a super typhoon, and of course do not go out into a super typhoon.
Super typhoons can tear branches of trees and uproot others.
Typhoons can be very dangerous. Here’s a sample of the dangers.
Typhoons are not that dangerous… any more, at least. If you’re super rich and live in a good neighbourhood in a sturdy house, or like most expats, live in a very sturdy apartment or condominium building, there’s nothing to worry about. Basically it’s just a windy, rainy day, and it has no effect on you, whatsoever. However, if you live in a low-lying area, near canals or rivers, in an area with storm-surge barriers near the sea, then you might have something to worry about (think New Orleans). Furthermore, if you live in Taiwan (with dodgy illegal rooftop structures all around you), or other places with flimsy building construction, then you shouldn’t stay too long near the windows or on your balcony and definitely don’t venture out. In countries like China, Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam, and others there will be a lot of debris flying about.
An office worker with an umbrella walking in a typhoon past a canal that is about to breach, in 2011. He probably was allowed to return home halfway through the day because of a change of JMA advisory.
2. Employers expect you to go to work
That’s right. Even if your home is at risk, and your family too, you’d better have a good reason not to come into work. Fortunately, most companies allow their employees to either stay home or return home when the Japanese Meteorological Agency (JMA) says that their is a “Warning” level for “storms” (or red on the JMA maps, but listed for “storms”). That means that the slow response the JMA has in updating their websites, and the near server crashes they experience from hundreds of thousands of hopeful employees means that when the information finally comes through, many employees could be in the brunt of the typhoon as they are travelling home. In contrast, Taiwan is much, much more organised. When the government announces closures of government offices either the night before or before 7am on the morning of an expected landfall, all businesses follow suit, so no-one is in harms way unnecessarily. I’ve seen news reports in Japan of children at a school sports day being killed by a marque blowing over in the middle of a typhoon. Japanese do tend to deny nature exists. It is a country of engineers and bureaucrats, not humanitarians.
3. Japan Meteorological Agency website is a problem to itself
I guess the JMA doesn’t quite understand that itself is a small natural disaster. Their information does not appear useful to non-Japanese people who are in Japan. On their Japanese version of the website, their typhoon probability circle times are in Tokyo time, but the English side it’s in GMT, a fact I didn’t know for the first eight years I lived in the country (I hadn’t heard of “UTC” until recently). I always wondered why there were such discrepancies in the expected arrival times. Furthermore, the language is not descriptive enough to adequately communicate the level of threat you face. They did bring out a new level last year. So there are now (my translation in parenthesis):
Grey: No warning or advisory (no danger)
Yellow: Advisory (moderate danger)
Red: Warning (high danger; risk of injury and damage)
Purple: Emergency Warning (extremely high danger; expected loss of life and serious damage to property in some places)
Furthermore, they still use Japanese and Japanese-English terms on their English website that no-one else understands. Here are some that you’ll see with a translation (republished from September 2012 JMA Information blog post):
Ku: Ward (like a suburb)
Cho / Mura: Town
Shi: City (like “Nagoya-shi” is just a city called “Nagoya” in regular English)
That’s right, the word “storm” refers to strength of wind, not the normal English definition of violent weather that includes thunder and lighting.
One more thing on this point, JMA doesn’t give names to typhoons, but they count them. The one that is bearing down on me as I write this is “number 18 of 2014”, as you can see here, http://www.jma.go.jp/en/typh/141824.html The English version of the website does include the international name of the typhoon. However, all the local news services refer only to the number, not the name.
Japanese Meteorological Agency website screenshot from September 2013. Click on your area of the JMA map on their website, and it’ll take you to information for your specific city or region.
4. What is actually dangerous about them in Japan?
Some simple facts. The slower the typhoon moves north, the more energy it has. Also the slower it moves, the more rain will pummel the storm area. The more rain in an area, the greater the risk of run-off overwhelming flood barriers, and the greater the risk of land and mud slides in hilly areas. A slow moving typhoon might track between 8 to 15km/h. A faster moving typhoon might move from about 20 to 25km/h. From about 30km/h it seems they start to loose organisation and fall apart. Also, from eye-balling the JMA satellite imagery, if you can easily and very clearly see a large hole in the centre, the eye, then it’s a seriously strong typhoon (see below). In my experience, the central pressure of typhoons is in the 900-1000hPa range. If it drops quickly, that means it’s getting stronger. I think I have seen typhoons under 900hPa, which is seriously strong and quite dangerous. Wind speeds or gusts over 200km/h is considered strong, but speeds over 300km/h are extremely rare and would make international headlines for weeks to come. The most dangerous or wild part of the typhoon is usually the northern arc, not so much the southern for some strange reason. Rainfall of anything over 150mm (I think in a 24hr period) is expected of almost all typhoons, over 200mm is more normal. However, rainfall in the range of 300 to 400mm is a lot. I think rainfall of 50 to 80mm/hr is a lot and expected in the centre of typhoons.
Typhoon season in Taiwan is typically in July and August. In Japan it is typically in August, but mainly September and October. It’s rare to get one in May, June, or July, but not unheard of. I’ve seen typhoons approach and hit South Korea in August.
A satellite image showing a very well formed super typhoon, on 9th October 2014.
5. Blue skies afterwards
Usually after a typhoon all the pollution in the skies have been blown away and you’ll see the most amazing blue skies. Also, it’ll be a hot day, too. I’m not entirely sure why. Typhoons tend to follow the warm or hot ocean currents, but warm air or rather, warm days follow typhoons.
Expect clear blue skies and very warm or hot days after typhoons have past.
Typhoon Neoguri (Korean for ‘squirrel’), will progress NE along the Pacific side of Southern Japan today. It is expected to reach Nagoya (Central Japan) by 6pm. Yesterday reports were saying that it might be one of the most dangerous squirrels typhoons this season. However, it seems to be speeding up. A faster moving typhoon brings less rain and damage than a slow moving one. Nonetheless, keep safe.
I received a message from a friend who has been involved with this Non-Governmental Organisation called ICAN that has been providing support to Philippine children for many years. That NGO is now calling for help following the recent typhoon aftermath. I don’t personally have any experience with the NGO, but they have been active in the Philippines, but I’m sure they are well placed to provide good support in the coming days, weeks, months, and on. The information and page is in Japanese as it is intended for Japanese. Even if you can’t use this, do forward this information onto people who can make use of it.
NHK can provide updated information about the weather by pressing the d for digital button. It moves the live tv broadcast to the top-right corner, and the digital info layout on the left and across the bottom. Japan now has a three level system which says, from lowest risk to highest: Advisory, Warning, and Emergency Warning. At time of writing, the TV was chiming and putting Japanese language information about evacuations required due to flooding in various districts of Kyoto. Some train services in Nagoya have been closed, and more may be. Despite months ago the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) and NHK promising multilingual ticker-tap information, this is not being followed through. Many flights in Nagoya, and presumably Osaka and Tokyo are cancelled.
Typhoons are usually strongest on their north-eastern side, and weaker wind and rain on the south-west. The slower they travel the more dangerous they are, as they spend more time dropping rain in a limited area. The more rain in one area increases the chances of flooding, landslides, and flood barriers and storm surge barriers at rivers and by the sea being washed away causing inundation. Unlike my Taiwan experience, the wind isn’t dangerous, whereas in Taiwan strong winds blow loose roofs off and into the street.
Officially & internationally called “Typhoon Jelawat”, but in Japan it’s known as “Typhoon number 17”.
My area is expecting about 500mm of rain tonight. The typhoon centre is expected to be within a few kilometres of my area at about the same time as high tide, 6pm local time, creating a risk of sea water washing over storm surge barriers (shown below). Already an Australian tourist in Osaka was killed when a tree was blown over as she was out walking. If you’re in Japan, please stay indoors and keep an eye on TV news reports for your area. Also keep up to date with the Japan Meteorological Agency website for more information, and watch for Twitter hashtags: #typhoon17 and #typhoonjelawat.
Typhoon Roke has finally made it here. It will pass directly over Nagoya and then Tokyo. The wind doesn’t seem as strong as the previous typhoon, Talas. Rain associated with Roke has caused flooding in Nagoya where authorities issued evacuation orders for 1 million of the 2 million residents of Nagoya. It sounds desperate, but it is not. Most of the residents Nagoya live in multi-story condominium buildings or multi-story apartments. Only householders near the Shonai River are indeed flooded. Affected areas are mainly Moriyama and Tempaku. NHK, the national broadcaster, showed pictures of city residents taking refuge in emergency shelters last night, ahead of additional or continued flooding, and ahead of the approach of the typhoon.
Yesterday many workers and students attending their first days of the new semester were stranded at train stations as underground services were flooded, or high risks due to the winds. The stranding of commuters was the probable cause of mobile phone services working only intermittently. Despite learning that stranded passengers in Tokyo was a huge problem after the March-eleven quake, Nagoya seemed unprepared.
Below are photos from Typhoon Talas. I’m not leaving my area until I’m sure that my home and neighbourhood is safe, then I might venture out. My area has a warning of high risk of storm surge causing inundation. My pictures, below, show the storm surge and tsunami protection, however, not all parts of the dyke is as strong and reinforced as those shown.
Typhoon Roke is still coming, and at the time of writing, the storm zone is still not over Nagoya (my city). Strangely, we’ve had a large amount of rain, but not a massive amount, but parts of Nagoya have been flooded. I would never have thought this, as the rain was not intense enough for long enough, consequently I never thought to even bother go around the town to take a look. 79,000 people in Nagoya have been told to evacuate, and they are apart of the 1.2 million having to move, too. Currently there is no wind, and the storm zone isn’t over Nagoya, yet. The rain is merely associated with the typhoon.
It appears that mobile phone services are operating in some areas intermittently, perhaps as many stranded commuters are calling home saying that their train services are closed or the underground stations flooded.
For the latest information see the Japan Weather Agency website. I’m afraid I don’t know of any other informational services in languages other than Japanese. Currently, it seems the worst of the storm should have past Nagoya by 6pm Wednesday (local time), but Tokyo would still be affected. Companies often stipulate that if there is a Gale Warming (red) then workers are not required to attend. Most companies are not concerned about the other warnings (including flood, rain, and risks of landslides).
This is the latest typhoon on the list, and is expected to cause more damage than the previous one to hit mainland Japan: Talas. However, since many people were displaced by Typhoon Talas, there probably won’t be many more to be displaced in Roke.
NHK reported on the TV news just before 10pm that because of the rain from Typhoon Roke, the natural dams made by landslides from Typhoon Talas earlier this month, may burst as early as tonight. The affected areas in Wakayma and southern Mie prefectures were predicted to have up to 200 to 300mm of rain, but it was predicted that only 30mm (a little more than an inch) of rain is needed for some of them to overflow. Villages downstream should have already been evacuated and remain evacuated since Typhoon Talas. Since Talas all attempts to prevent the homes from being washed away, however, they will surely be lost tonight. The typhoon storm zone isn’t even over the Japan mainland yet, just the rain ahead of the typhoon is causing this damage.