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Nasty Sinlaku weakens to tropical storm

Date Posted: 2008-09-19

Everyone loves Okinawa, and that includes Sinlaku, now a tropical storm after nearly a week of meandering on a wobbly path that saw it pass to the west of Okinawa’s main island on Wednesday, but not before wreaking havoc on the southern islands and neighboring Taiwan.

With reservoirs seriously depleted, Okinawa has greeted Sinlaku with mixed emotions. The 4+ inches of rain expected through today will ease the threat of drought and Fall water restrictions, but in the southern islands, where Yonaguni and Ishigaki islands felt Sinlaku’s wrath, there’s more concern. As Sinlaku swirled on a path west of Okinawa Wednesday, winds were still steady at 45 knots (23 m/s - 52mph).

Sinlaku slammed into Yonaguni and Ishigaki islands Friday with winds of nearly 63m/s (143mph), downing power lines, flooding homes and forcing evacuations. As it departed some 48 hours later, the damages were mounting; more than 2,000 homes without power, tourists frustrated over canceled flights that gave them an extra element to vacations, and crops buried by the deluge. Meteorologists report an all-time prefecture record 769.5ml (30.3”) of rain in a 24-hour period.

Yonaguni Town Office officials peg damages at ¥300 million. Bridge collapses, road damages and utility poles snapped like toothpicks, together with crop damage and collapsed homes and sheds account for most of the damage. Yonaguni was under Sinlaku’s influence for 57 hours, with flooding severely affecting 31 homes.

Flights were stalled over the weekend, and by Tuesday airlines again began canceling 21 flights to and from Ishigaki Island to Naha City, 400 kilometers away, after lightning from the 13th typhoon of the season struck the runway.

Taiwan was beaten up badly by Sinlaku, with parts of two bridges collapsed, one sending a car and driver to his death into the swirling river waters below. A whopping 55 inches of rain was registered as the typhoon swept across the island with 126kph (78mph) winds.

As with a typhoon named Sinlaku six years ago in the same time frame, the storm took its time moving across the warm waters from Taiwan to Okinawa, hovering over Naha City for nearly 72 hours.

This same week a year ago, Super Typhoon Wipha smashed into Ishigaki with winds of 156.6mph. Only a week earlier, Typhoon Nari had been setting short-lived records of its own, battering the islands with 140.5mph winds. Wipha produced 300mm (11.8”) of rain during its sweep across the southern part of the prefecture.

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