Travelers must always remain aware of the potential of severe weather events in the areas where they visit. Tourists to Japan may have concerns about the possibility of a typhoon during their visit. The wind and water event may seem frightening to anyone unfamiliar with the risks or how they should respond to the threat. Staying safe relies on an understanding of what to expect from a typhoon.
What is a typhoon?
Hurricanes and typhoons produce the same type of weather system. Meteorologists know them both as tropical cyclones. The two systems consist of rotating clouds that generate wind, rain, and thunderstorms. Ocean waves may produce some coastal flooding as the wind pushes water onto the shore.
A tropical cyclone must have a minimum sustained wind speed of over 74 mph before it becomes a typhoon or hurricane. Meteorologists rank the storms based on the sustained wind speed at the center of the storm. The rating goes from a category one at 74 mph to a category five at 155 mph or above. Once a storm reaches a category one, it becomes a verified hurricane or typhoon and gains a unique name. The names help to define the storms that occur each year.
The threat of a typhoon usually only exists during certain months. In Japan, the typhoon season lasts from about July to October or November. The biggest risk of a storm occurs during August and September. The average season, according to the Japanese Meteorological Society, produces about 25 typhoons each year. Around 11 of these storms make landfall.
What to do in case of a typhoon?
Visitors to Japan should stay updated on local weather information when visiting during the typhoon season. Know the location of any nearby emergency shelters in case a hotel or other accommodation becomes unsafe. Buy bottled water and batteries for radios and flashlights and have basic first aid supplies available.
Remain inside during the duration of the storm. Go to higher ground if caught outside when the storm begins, and stay away from the water due to the risk of flash floods. Do not take shelter under trees or under any unstable structure that could collapse in the wind and rain. Never cross flooded streets because of the risk of downed power lines and undetected water depths and currents. Landslides can also occur during a Japan typhoon, so be aware of the surroundings throughout the storm.
People with a dedicated outdoor area should bring in any unsecured items like plants and patio furniture. Stay away from windows during a storm. A typhoon can produce strong enough winds to cause these things to become dangerous projectiles. Leave immediately for emergency shelter if the building begins to flood. Never ignore orders to evacuate the area.
The most destructive typhoons in Japan
Most typhoons stay offshore and cause no damage, but some cause a lot of destruction. In September of 1959, Typhoon Vera became the most powerful Japanese typhoon on record. Vera caused the deaths of more than 5,000 people and left nearly 39,000 injured and 1.5 million without homes due to its 190 mph sustained winds.
Typhoon Mireille was the 20th named stormed in the 1991 Pacific typhoon season. It struck Japan in September with 115 mph sustained winds. Over 7 million people experienced power outages, over a half-million homes were damaged, and 66 people died. The Japan typhoon cost the apple industry $3 billion as it ripped from the trees approximately 345,000 tons of apples.
Typhoon Hagibis occurred in October of 2019. The storm alarmingly went from a tropical depression to a category five hurricane in under 12 hours. The sustained winds of this typhoon were measured at 160 mph. Typhoon Hagibis claimed 74 lives and 15 remain listed as missing. Thousands of others were injured, and hundreds of thousands were left with damaged homes and no electricity.