Super Typhoon Hagibis is inching closer to Japan while packing 130 mph winds and heavy rains. The storm is ominously eyeing Tokyo, which lies directly in its path.
The city of 9 million is bracing for a potential direct hit from Hagibis’s core of strongest winds and heaviest rains Saturday evening local time. By then, the typhoon is expected to be straddling the line between a Category 1 and 2 equivalent storm, but it will still pack a strong punch.
The strongest winds are likely to remain within the storm’s eyewall, which could be 25 to 50 miles wide by that point, although the wind field will expand as the storm moves northward. Thus, any subtle shifts in track could have significant implications for the wind impacts in Japan’s capital.
While there’s a chance that Tokyo will dodge the worst winds, the majority of computer models suggest the city could be in line for some of the most intense impacts. In addition to wind-driven heavy rains, falling glass from skyscraper windows also could be a danger to city residents. This particular threat proved highly problematic during Typhoon Mangkhut, which struck Hong Kong in September 2018.
In addition, heavy rains on the order of 4 to 7 inches are likely in Tokyo, with localized higher amounts in the Akaishi Mountains. Ten-inch or greater totals aren’t out of the question northeast of Tokyo in the Tsukuba region north of the Tone River. Typhoons have a long history of causing floods and mudslides in Japan’s higher terrain, and some of the storm’s heavy rainbands have already come ashore southwest of Tokyo.
The Japan Meteorological Agency also has a high wave warning posted for all south coastal-facing prefectures, where offshore waves in excess of 40 feet are possible. A five- to eight-foot storm surge is likely, which may cause significant coastal inundation.
Two Rugby World Cup matches that were originally slated for this weekend have been canceled, according to the BBC. Japan Air Lines, ANA, Jetstar Japan and a number of other airlines have announced cancellations of flights to and from Tokyo.
Striking Japan may be the final act in Hagibis’s extremely impressive life cycle as a tropical cyclone, though it won’t mark the end of the road for this weather system overall.
On Sunday night, Hagibis, which means “speed” or “velocity” in Tagalog, was a tropical storm with 70 mph winds. By Monday afternoon, just 18 hours later, it had winds topping 160 mph after going through a period of extremely rapid intensification. In fact, Hagibis more than tripled the rate of strengthening a cyclone would need to undergo to classify as “rapid intensification.” That 90 mph jump also marked the speediest leap in storm strength in more than 23 years in that part of the world.
Hagibis stumbled briefly Tuesday as a Category 4 equivalent before putting on a dazzling and unusual display of regeneration that was seen via satellite imagery as its former, five-mile-wide pinhole eye and remnant eyewall became engulfed within a much larger, 25-mile-wide eye that formed around it.
After its passage through Japan by Sunday, Hagibis is likely to transition into a powerful extratropical cyclone as it blasts toward the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands next week.