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Upcoming typhoon season may be quiet

By: Bill Charles

Date Posted: 2008-05-09

Neoguri has already found a place in the record books. Rammasun, Matmo, Halong, Nakri and Fengshen are waiting.

They’re typhoon names at the top of the 2008 list.

Neoguri, which is Korean for raccoon dog, kicked off the 2008 north Pacific typhoon season last month, forming east of the Philippines before moving ashore in China April 18th, killing three and leaving 40 fishermen missing. Neoguri, a Category 2 typhoon, caused $42 million in damages.

In Greek, typhoon means whirlwind. In Arabic it’s deluge. Mandarin Chinese defines it as a great wind. The name typhoon first evolved in southern Europe, traveling across Arabia to India, where in 1588 it was first labeled in English. It originated from a severe storm in India that ultimately caused officials to blend the Greek and Chinese ideas into the word that today often means severe death and destruction, particularly in Asia.

The prognosis for the 2008 typhoon season is cloudy, with at least the Tropical Storm Risk Consortium predicting the months ahead will bring 20% fewer typhoons than normal. Dr. Adam Lea and Prof. Mark Saunders of University College London estimate a 53% chance of typhoons being well below normal, and only an 11% chance of it being an active season.

Rammasun, a name chosen by Thailand, is the next to be assigned to a tropical storm. Matmo, picked by the United States, is the third name of the year, followed by Vietnam’s choice of Halong, Cambodia’s Nakri, and China’s Fengshen. All will certainly be used in 2008, along with a good many others. A total of 24 storms stirred up in 2007, with only a couple offering light damage to Okinawa. Two typhoons hit Okinawa in 2006, and only one of 21 hit the island prefecture in 2005. It was 2004 that was a record-setter, with 13 of 32 striking Okinawa.

Kong Rey opened last year’s typhoon season March 31st and Mitag ended the year on November 28th. The strongest was Sepat. Of the 24 2007 storms, 14 were typhoons and four achieved super typhoon status. Together, they accounted for 160+ fatalities and more than $1.6 billion in damages.

The Okinawa islands, which operate on a Tropical Cyclone Conditions of Readiness (TCCOR) through the end of November, are already making preparations for an active season by issuing warnings and reminders to residents on how to be prepared.

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% 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
Batteries
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
Flashlights
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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