Typhoons are a part of life in Japan. The typhoon season in Japan runs from May through October, with peaks in August and September. Since weather in Belgium is usually pretty mild, the occasional summer thunder-storm excepted, I was quite worried at the prospect of facing tropical cyclones during my stay in Japan. My concerns were not lifted by ominous typhoon warning e-mails sent out by the expat support agency that was hired to watch over all Toyota expats. The e-mails advised everyone to stay inside, keep away from the windows and have enough supplies to last 1-2 days in case you couldn’t get out of the house and the electricity failed. Part of the advice literally read:
If you don’t have water and other supplies, now might be a good time to go out to your local convenience store. There is no need to go overboard, as this situation is only likely to continue for another 1-2 days at the most, but you may wish to get enough to tide you over. In case of electricity failure, having some candles and torches / batteries would be advisable.
I have included the full warning e-mail below.
Being the good little gaijin that I am, I dutifully followed this advice, particularly the part about ‘now might be a good time to go out to your local convenience store’. So I wrestled through strong winds and pouring rain, holding on to my umbrella for dear life, to get enough supplies to last me through the upcoming natural disaster.
This video gives you an idea of the weather conditions during my shopping run:
Having arrived home with my supplies, I huddled up inside the house to wait out the terrible storm that was surely about to hit soon. But instead of gaining in strength, the storm seemed to die down! I turned out I went shopping during the height of the typhoon! It seems that I severely overestimated the strength of the typhoon.
Nevertheless, my neighbour also seemed a bit worried the typhoon, because this is what she did to protect the plant at her front door:
This plant was carefully wrapped to protect it from the strong storm winds. This still didn’t prevent it from falling over, which it did, but the plant nevertheless made it through the storm in one piece.
Despite my own personal experience with typhoons (i.e. them being pretty mild), typhoons can be quite dangerous. Especially in the Southern parts of Japan, people die every year because of typhoons. The year I was in Japan, parts of Nagoya and Okazaki were flooded for a few hours because of the rain front preceding the typhoon. Even just two weeks ago there was a large typhoon associated flood in the Kanto region that killed several people.
Considering the big picture, I am still unsure on how to react to typhoons. Go about my business as usual and ignore the whole thing? It seems I would have been better off having done so instead of having gone shopping for emergency supplies. Salary men also seem to ignore typhoons completely. There is no question of staying inside as advised. They go to work or die trying. But on the other hand there are these disastrous stories in the media. I also heard that sometimes schools close when a typhoon approaches. So what is the best way to deal with an approaching typhoon? What is your experience with typhoons? What is the advice you would give? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section!
Full warning e-mail from the expat support agency:
Typhoon #15, also known as Typhoon Roke, will hit Nagoya Tomorrow at approximately 15:00/3pm. Please exercise caution.
An evacuation warning has been issued to all areas of Nagoya City, and in certain parts of Nagoya such as Moriyama, actual evacuations have been ordered. While the rain has settled in the past few hours, there is a good chance that heavy rain fall will occur overnight and again tomorrow morning, through until when the Typhoon is scheduled to pass through this area at 15:00 tomorrow.
We recommend the following:
WITH REGARD TO THE RAIN
- If possible, stay at home and keep advised of the situation by watching NHK. While not always in English, important notices are given in English on NHK.
- Stay clear of rivers / streams and large drains. There is potential for any of them to overflow without warning.
- Avoid using a vehicle, especially in the dark, as it is difficult to see flooded areas and it is often too late once you enter them. Kindly note that your insurance is, for the most part, unlikely to cover the loss of your vehicle due to flooding.
- If your parking spot is in a low-lying area, move your car to a local supermarket or other such car parks that are on higher land. This would be advisable especially if there is already 5 – 10 cm of water that you need to wade through around your vehicle.
- If you don’t have water and other supplies, now might be a good time to go out to your local convenience store. There is no need to go overboard, as this situation is only likely to continue for another 1-2 days at the most, but you may wish to get enough to tide you over. In case of electricity failure, having some candles and torches / batteries would be advisable.
WITH REGARD TO THE TYPHOON (scheduled arrival tomorrow at 15:00)
- Stay inside! Keep advised of the situation by watching NHK. While not always in English, important notices are given in English on NHK (Channels 1 and 3).
- Secure or move inside outdoor items such as toys, grills, bicycles, furniture, plants and anything moveable on the balcony. Move potted plants and other heavy objects away from windows inside as well.
- If you have shutters on your windows and doors, pull them shut. Shutters can prevent your windows from being broken by flying items.
- Set your freezer to the coldest temperature setting to minimize spoilage if the power is cut off
- Watch for leaks around windows and doors. If the wind is strong enough, water may be blown into your home even if the windows are closed. Have handy towels, rags and mops
- If the storm becomes severe, move into a hallway or area where there is the least exposure to external glass windows.
- Draw curtains across the windows to prevent against flying glass should windows crack.
- A window on the side of the house away from the approaching storm should be opened a few inches. This will compensate for the differences of indoor and outdoor air pressure.
- Remember that typhoons have “eyes”, areas in their center where the weather appears calm. If the eye passes over your area, it may appear that the storm has finished, with winds then picking up again as the remainder of the storm arrives
- After the typhoon is gone, check for broken glass, fallen trees and downed power lines which may present safety hazards near children’s school bus stops, outdoor trash areas, around your car, etc.