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It's a slow start to typhoon season

By: By Bill Charles

Date Posted: 2011-05-11

The 2011 typhoon season doesn’t officially begin for nearly three weeks, until June 1st, but the arrival of a very lame Tropical Storm Aere yesterday, complete with all the TCCOR advisories and warnings that got the military communities’ attention, was more real than the calendars. It turned out to be nothing more than a rainmaker, but it was the third storm of the not-yet-started season.

The 2011 season isn’t forecast to be particularly heavy, but forecasters say there’s always the chance Mother Nature could pull some surprises. The names to watch—the first to be pulled from the 24-name list that runs not alphabetically, are Songda, Sarika, Haima, Meari, Ma-on, Tokage, Nockten, Muifa, Merbok, Nanmadol, Talas, Noru, Kulap, Roke, Sonca, Nesat and Haitang. There are six more, and meteorologists won’t be specific, but hint they hope they’ll not have to dig deeper in the list this year.

The strongest storm of 2010 was Typhoon Megi, packing 230kph/145mph winds. It was one of seven typhoons last season, a record low. Typhoons last year killed 398 people and caused $2.3063 billion in damages. Overall, there were 14 named storms, also a record low, while 32 tropical depressions never made it to the point of getting a name. It was a long season in 2010, with the first storm in January and the last December 20th.

Meteorological analysts have differing views on how severe this season will be, with some predicting moderate-to-severe storms activity, while others express confidence it could be a slow season. Either way, everyone agrees that the number could be below ten named storms. Names of particularly deadly typhoons are not recycled, but instead are retired. Nineteen names have been retired since 2001, all of which wreaked havoc in various countries in the region. Three typhoon names—Morakot, Ketsana and Parma were added in 2009. Ketsana is ranked as the 3rd deadliest storm in the decade, followed by Morakot in 4th place. Typhoon Morakot was the most expensive and destructive storm of the decade at $7.69 billion, with Parma close behind at $6.49 billion, and Ketsana ranking as the third most expensive. Typhoon Parma, together Typhoon Melor, were the troublesome storms for Okinawa.

In Arabic, typhoon means deluge. In Greek it’s a whirlwind, while Mandarin Chinese explains it as a great wind. The name typhoon evolved from southern Europe, across Arabia to India, where it was first cast into English in 1588. It was spawned from a severe storm that ripped India, leading officials to combine the Greek and Chinese concepts into the word that today frequently means death and severe destruction in Asia.

Each of the four TCCOR categories and sub-categories has specific requirements and restrictions on service members and the military bases.

TCCOR 4: Okinawa remains in this state throughout the season. Destructive winds of 58 mph or greater are possible within 72 hours. Personal items kept outdoors, such as barbeque grills and children’s toys, should be brought inside.

TCCOR 3: Destructive winds of 58 mph or greater are possible in the area within 48 hours. People should make sure they have adequate stocks of food and water, as well as other emergency supplies. Secure all doors and windows.

TCCOR 2: Destructive winds of 58 mph or greater are anticipated within 24 hours. Store critical documents, cash and credit cards in waterproof container. Be prepared for evacuation measures.

TCCOR 1: Destructive winds of 58 mph or greater are anticipated within 12 hours. Stay indoors, or be prepared to follow directions to indoor locations.

Shortly before a typhoon strikes Okinawa, the military will declare TCCOR 1-E (Emergency), meaning that all nonessential personnel go indoors and remain until the storm has passed and the all-clear is issued. Once that happens, the military puts the island in TCCOR 1-R (Recovery), which allows some restricted personnel movement.

Preparations for typhoons are being encouraged now, including cleanups around residences and dormitories, and gathering stocks of emergency supplies. The Defense Commissary Agency is encouraging customers to “load up their pantries” as part of an awareness campaign encouraging families to keep nonperishable foods, water and other necessities on hand for emergencies. DeCA is teamed with the American Red Cross’ Armed Forces Emergency Services Branch in the “What’s In Your Closet” campaign.

Commissary store directors on Okinawa are taking extra measures to be sure their patrons are prepared for the upcoming season, and Defense Commissary Agency says “we want to raise awareness of the need to keep emergency supplies on hand, and that shoppers can save 30% or more by using their commissary benefit.”

The American Red Cross has representatives at commissaries across the island to provide information and answer questions about disaster preparedness. The Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency are both working closely with local communities and relief organizations to remind residents to make emergency preparations.

A seven-day emergency supplies closet is recommended by officials. Stocking these items will protect families during a typhoon, when power is frequently off and water supplies contaminated:

Canned meats, fruits and vegetables
High-energy foods such as nuts, raisins and granola
Infant/baby food and supplies
Pet food
Non-perishable food
Over-the-counter medications
Garbage bags
Water (at least one gallon per person daily)
Manual can opener
Matches in waterproof container
Candles and charcoal
Toilet paper and towelettes
Soap, detergent, disinfectant / bleach
Personal hygiene items
Paper cups and plates, plastic utensils
First aid kit
Hand sanitizer
Plastic storage containers
Battery-operated radio, extra clothing, blankets, prescriptions, money (coins and paper money), eyeglasses and important documents should also be stored with the emergency supplies.

Typhoons and severe storm information will be disseminated on American Forces Radio and Television, and posted on Kadena’s weather website.

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