Japan has faced an onslaught of natural disasters this year, which seem unrelenting. A double-whammy struck this week, Typhoon Jebi and earthquake-induced landslides, which have left the country reeling.
Typhoon Jebi slammed Japan as an intense Category 1 storm at landfall. The storm left at least 11 dead, and officials in Japan’s weather agency have called it the worst typhoon to strike the country since 1993.
Then, on Thursday, saturated soils helped trigger landslides, which have killed at least seven, after a large earthquake near Hokkaido.
The typhoon packed sustained winds around 85 mph at landfall, and gusts as high as 130 mph were recorded. Jebi also delivered a substantial rise in water at the coast, or storm surge, as well as flooding rain.
In the days before striking Japan, Jebi was a Category 5 super typhoon. It attained the status of the strongest storm on the planet this year, so far. As we’ve seen in numerous instances, while the storm did weaken on approach, it’s former massive shell perhaps allowed it to produce wind, waves and damage more typical of a stronger storm at landfall.
More than 2 million customers lost power in the storm as Jebi delivered widespread severe wind gusts to a wide swath of the nation.
Sayaka Mori, a meteorologist for NHK World, a broadcasting network in the country, shared a fascinating graphic from the Japan Meteorological Agency showing that Jebi caused the strongest wind gusts on record across a large part of the country’s south-central region:
Mori also noted that the highest wind gust recorded in Japan from Jebi was 209 kph, or roughly 130 mph, at Kansai International Airport near the landfall location. Although Jebi was the equivalent of a high-end Category 1 at landfall, based on sustained winds near 85 mph, its forward speed, interaction with the jet stream and the terrain of Japan probably helped maximize its wind impact.
U.S.-based storm chaser Josh Morgerman reported similar observations. He was in the country chasing Jebi, and he later tweeted that “the wind made a constant, high-pitched howl, bordering on a scream.” He said it “felt like more than a Cat 1.”
Kansai Airport, where that peak wind gust from Jebi was recorded, was also mostly submerged by storm surge as the storm made landfall.
Located on a man-made island in Osaka Bay about 250 miles southwest of Tokyo, much of the airport was under several feet of water for a time as the storm passed. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced today that the airport will partially reopen Friday.
The Mainichi, a daily newspaper in Japan, reports the storm surge in Osaka Prefecture reached at least 3.29 meters in height, which is close to 11 feet above the normal tidal level. According to information they have received, that surpassed a prior record of around three meters from a typhoon called Nancy in 1961.
As if Japan needed another disaster this summer, a strong earthquake with a magnitude of 6.7 struck the Hokkaido area of northern Japan during the pre-dawn hours Thursday.
This quake has been blamed for at least eight deaths, and it triggered a series of major landslides across the region. Like the rest of the country, the epicenter zone has seen plentiful rainfall of late, which may have amplified the landslide activity.
Keeping track of the disasters to strike Japan is becoming increasingly arduous, since they keep on coming.
The Associated Press has created a list since June. The big ones include a 6.1-magnitude Osaka earthquake in June, followed by typhoon-aided west-Japan floods in July, then July record heat and, finally, Typhoon Jebi plus the 6.7-magnitude Hokkaido quake.
Residents will undoubtedly be hoping for a much-needed break in the time ahead as cleanup from multiple disasters continues into the fall.