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Okinawa becoming a tornado alley

Date Posted: 2008-12-05

Okinawa has earned yet another dubious distinction, being labeled the number one location for tornadoes in Japan.

Once a rare phenomena, tornadoes have zeroed in on this southern prefecture, leading weather researchers to more closely study environmental change. Only one tornado touched down in Okinawa in 2005, followed by a jump to six in 2006.

Weather experts point out things have gotten worse, with 13 tornado strikes in 2007, and this year 18 by the end of November. Okinawa’s topography is credited as being an ideal spawning ground for tornadoes, with plenty of flat lands surrounded by water. They do admit there could have been more in earlier years that went unnoticed. The advent of cell phones and more sophisticated radars make tornado detection easier.

Most tornadoes have struck during September and October, largely in the island’s rural northern sectors where damage has been limited. Nago City’s Henoko area, where the Camp Schwab U.S. Marine Base is located, once suffered three injuries when a tornado touched down. Weather historians also recall a 1983 tornado that slammed Izena Island, injuring 29.

The Japan Meteorological Agency this year instituted a new information center dubbed a Tornado Warning Center. Close tracking of tornadoes, and conditions favorable for creation of tornadoes, began in March. Meteorologists says dark, windy skies accompanied by rain are ideal times for tornadoes to form. The early warning systems, they say, won’t stop the tornadoes but will reduce damages and injuries thanks to advance notifications to the public.

The number one rule in a tornado, forecasters say, is for people to go inside a house or building, preferably a strongly constructed building.

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