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Forecasters predict 'normal' typhoon season

By: By Bill Charles

Date Posted: 2012-06-01

The 2012 typhoon season officially kicks off June 1st, and thus far there’s nothing on the ocean horizon to suggest any storms to push up that date, as Aere did last May, complete with all the TCCOR advisories and warnings that got the military communities’ attention, but turned out to be nothing more than a rainmaker.

It should be noted, though, that Tropical Storm Pakhar didn’t read any of the meteorological books or manuals, instead choosing March 24th ~ April 2nd to make a run across the Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. It kept speeds at 45mph, and didn’t injure or kill anyone during its ten-day romp, but gave southeast Asia countries an early wake up call.

The 2012 typhoon season isn’t forecast to be particularly heavy, but forecasters say there’s always that chance Mother Nature could pull some surprises. The names to watch—the next after Pakhar to be pulled from the 24-name list that runs randomly, rather than alphabetically--are Sanvu, Mawar, Guchol, Talim, Doksuri, Khanun, Vicente, Saola, Damrey, Haikui, Kirogi, Kai-tek, Tembin, Bolaven, Sanba, Jelawat and Ewiniar. There are six more, and meteorologists won’t be specific, but really hope they won’t have to dig deeper in the list this year.

Two strong super typhoons found Okinawa last year, part of ten typhoons last season, seven of them intense. Overall, there were 21 named storms, It was a long season in 2011, with that first Tropical Storm Aere in May and the last one, Tropical Storm Washi, December 16th. That was the deadliest storm of the year though, ravaging Mindanao in the Philippines, an area rarely struck by typhoons. More than 200mm of rain swept across the island, leaving a path of devastation that included more than 1,000 dead.

Despite that, last year was the third lowest storm year on record, behind 1998 and 2010, since records began being kept in 1965. What’s on tap for this year? Tropical Storm Risk, a London-based tracking and analysis agency, says slightly more tropical storm storms than a year ago, and five more typhoons than last year. The number of super typhoons is still pegged at seven or so.

Super Typhoon Songda gave Okinawa a few thrills last year, romping around the region as a Category 5 storm with 161mph sustained winds, 195mph gusts and 38’ waves. When it hit Okinawa May 28th, it was a mellow Category 2 Typhoon with 109mph winds, gusting to 132mph.

Super Typhoon Muifa was Okinawa’s headache, the second super typhoon to arrive in the year, on August 1st. Muifa brought 41” of rain to Okinawa in 30 hours while keeping the island in TCCOR-1 conditions for 60 hours. It was a slow mover, to be sure, killing five, injuring 37 and leaving 13,630 stranded on Okinawa as ferries and airplanes were halted. Damages from Super Typhoon Muifa totaled $480 million.

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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