Super Typhoon Vongfong, which might be considered the perfect storm – at least, in terms of its satellite profile – may be heading straight for Japan. Whilst the Atlantic ocean has been relatively peaceful, this hurricane season, the Pacific has played host to a number of Typhoons; four of them dubbed “super typhoons.” Monitored by the Regional Specialized Meteorological Centre (RSMC) in Tokyo, Japan and the Joint Typhoon Warning Center, Typhoon Vongfong is reported as having maximum sustained winds of 180 miles per hour. The Typhoon Warning Center is predicting that Vongfong will intensify further, with wind speeds reaching around 195 miles per hour. For perspective, a hurricane with maximum sustained winds exceeding 156 miles per hour is classed a category five, according to the Saffir–Simpson hurricane wind scale.
Japan, which was hit by Typhoon Phanfone over the weekend, lies in one of the projected paths of Vongfong. The Pacific nation has been battered by several storms this year. Vongfong, the perfect storm, from a meteorological perspective, is already being compared to Typhoon Haiyan, which slammed into the Philippines last year, with devastating results: More than 6000 people lost their lives to Haiyan. The Typhoon was considered to be the most powerful storm in history ever to make landfall. Around 800,000 people were evacuated from its path.
Typhoon Phanfone did not cause major structural damage in Japan, but did result in flooding and mudslides and led to the cancellation of flights and rail services. It also triggered mass evacuations and, ultimately, killed seven people and left 49 injured and seven missing. Three US airmen in Okinawa were swept out to sea; one was found dead and the two others went missing. One of Vongfong’s projected paths could take it over some of the country’s major urban areas, including the capitol, Tokyo. Vongfong has already passed over the islands of Rota and Guam. Despite dire warnings, Rota suffered less damage than had been feared, although power was lost across most of the island, there were no fatalities or injuries. Guam suffered storm force winds and heavy rain.
Currently, Super Typhoon Vongfong is the most intense storm the planet has seen this year. Due to ocean temperatures and other factors, however, the typhoon is expected to weaken by the time it hits the southern tip of Japan this weekend; it may be down to a category three or two storm at that time. In addition to Phanfone, super typhoons Halong and Neoguri have hit Japan this year.
Japan is still recovering from a volcanic eruption which occurred Saturday. at least 47 people were killed when Mount Ontake erupted. Heavy rains from Typhoon Phanfone hindered search and rescue efforts.
Vongfong warrants the perfect storm moniker, due to its perfect symmetry and clearly defined circular eye; an indication of the ferocious pressure which it has built up. According to projections, it is almost certain to hit the southern tip of Japan and could possibly move across other parts of the country; at the very least, bringing sustained heavy rains and deadly mudslides.
Graham J Noble