: Classifieds : MyJU :
Stories: News
Browse News Stories: « Previous Story | Next Story »

Erratic Typhoon Songda plays games with forecasters, Okinawa

Date Posted: 2004-09-10

Like its namesake river in Vietnam, Typhoon Songda meandered north, then west, then north again before engulfing Okinawa for two days early this week.

And when it did, it buffeted the Ryukyu Islands with winds in excess of 100mph for more than 24 hours starting Sunday. Naha International Airport was closed, stranding thousands of tourists and business travelers.

Okinawa Meteorological Observatory officials say Typhoon Songda was the strongest storm to strike Okinawa since it began keeping records in 1972.

A week earlier, on August 31, forecasters said Songda would come nowhere near Okinawa, traveling north toward central Japan. Songda disagreed, swinging westward on a course close to Okinawa, then further south and west toward Taiwan. By early last Friday, forecasters were convinced the typhoon, with its sustained winds in excess of 130mph, would pass well south of Taiwan and prove only a pest to Okinawa.

Forecasters modified their predictions Friday afternoon as they saw the winds twisting the huge storm back north on a collision course with Okinawa.

Bases began lockdown procedures late Saturday evening, and Songda, with its strongest winds at 150+ mph in the upper atmosphere swirling northwest, began its assault. Highest winds reached more than 91mph in Naha, more than 100mph in Nago, and a brisk 88mph at Kadena. Japan’s Meteorological Agency reported more than a foot of rain during the two days.

Power was knocked out to nearly 20,000 households on the east central side of the island, and Naha International Airport closed for more than 24 hours, stranding some 40,000 travellers. More than 750 spent Sunday night on the chilly concrete airport floors, no hotels available anywhere. Upwards of 50 flights were cancelled.

Airport officials had chartered a number of flights, trying to clear the crowds, but there simply was no time. Some tourists were looking for a bright side. “We got to experience a typhoon here in Okinawa,” said one. “This is the eighth time to Okinawa. We love the beaches, so it’s nothing for us. We’ll stay at the airport and come back again.” On the other side, “I have to go back to Tokyo today,” one complained, crying. “I need to, otherwise I lose my job. Please let me get on board a flight.”

Okinawa Prefecture Convention Bureau staff jumped in to assist, providing towels, seats and childrens’ things. A volunteer network joined in, and musicians even staged a free mini-concert for the marooned travelers.

Farmers were hardest hit by Typhoon Songda. Northern Okinawa is at the peak of tangerines harvest, with thousands of pounds being picked and packed daily for shipment to the mainland. It’s also the season for bananas, watermelon, and flowers from greenhouses, and Songda’s winds bent and broke most.

“It will be over ¥100,000,000 lost, at least,” the Northern port area’s director said. “I didn’t check the details yet, but we’re very disappointed. Limes, lemons, organges…their harvest is supposed to come in January through March. But they’re all damaged, and won’t be harvested.”

The storm moved fairly quickly as it passed over Okinawa, then stalled, moving only 25 miles in seven hours.

Powerful Typhoon Songda slowly advanced Monday toward Kyushu, leaving 26 people injured. It is the fifth typhoon to affect the Okinawa islands in as many weeks.

Local police said 16 people were reported injured in Okinawa Prefecture, while 10 were hurt in Kagoshima Prefecture. The injured included a 51-year-old woman in Setouchi, Kagoshima Prefecture, who sustained cuts when she was hit by glass from a window that was blown out.

About 220 people in the two prefectures evacuated their homes, while most schools on the main island of Okinawa and on remote islands in the Amami region off Kagoshima were closed Monday morning.

The Meteorological Agency says another typhoon, Sarika, which means "singing bird" in Cambodian, is also heading toward Japan. Generating winds of up to 108 kph near its center, it is located well east of Okinawa, and is not expected to threaten the islands before going ashore in mainland Japan.

Browse News Stories: « Previous Story | Next Story »

weather currency health and beauty restaurants Yellowpages JU Blog

JU FacebookOkistyleOkistyle

Go to advertising PDF?||?|o?L?qAE?|?}?OA?N?ga`OkiStyle?A??q?qM?oeu^?I`??N?gX?<eth>?<ETH>?ni^?IWanted!!Golden Kings ScheduleOkiNightSeeker