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Upcoming typhoon season may be more intense

By: Bill Charles

Date Posted: 2007-06-01

After two quiet typhoon seasons, weather forecasters are bracing for a more active time ahead.

Typhoon Kong-rey has already gone into the history books, despite the fact the official typhoon season doesn’t begin until June 1st. Kong-rey skirted Guam by a mere 100 miles April 2nd, dumping nearly two inches of rain on the island while packing 30mph winds. The traditional typhoon season runs through November 30th, although Mother Nature is known for ignoring human defined periods.

Military and Japan Meteorological Agency forecasters are keeping a wary eye on the charts as they anticipate a more active six months than experienced during 2005 and 2006 seasons. While 75 typhoons were spawned over the past three years, only one actually hit Okinawa in 2005, and two lashed the southern prefecture last year.

A record-tying 32 typhoons formed in 2004, with 13 venting their furies on Okinawa. The islands, which operate on a Tropical Cyclone Conditions of Readiness (TCCOR) through the end of November, are making preparations for an active season by issuing warnings and reminders to residents on how to be prepared.

By any name, typhoons are something to be reckoned with. In Greek, it means whirlwind. In Arabic it’s deluge. Mandarin Chinese defines it as a great wind.

The name typhoon evolved from southern Europe, across Arabia to India, where in 1588 it was first cast in English. It was spawned from a severe storm that ravaged India, leading officials to merge the Greek and Chinese ideas into the word that today often means severe death and 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, hould 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% on 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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