Powerful storm dumps rain on much of nation

Kyodo

A powerful storm caused by a rapidly growing low-pressure system pummeled much of the nation Saturday, injuring at least two people, one of them critically, and wreaking havoc with transportation systems as it plowed northward.

The Meteorological Agency said heavy rain pelted the archipelago’s Pacific coast and was likely to reach northern Japan on Sunday, with Hokkaido expected to see more than 50 mm of precipitation per hour from Sunday morning through evening. The agency also issued a tornado advisory for Yamanashi, Shizuoka, Aichi, Tokushima and Kochi prefectures.

In Tottori Prefecture, two South Korean tourists riding bicycles were injured Saturday after being knocked to the ground by strong gusts. One of them, a woman, was in critical condition, police said.

Western, eastern and northern regions could experience winds of up to 126 kph by Sunday, while waves as high as 6 to 8 meters are expected off some coastal areas, the agency warned.

On Saturday, 92 mm of rainfall per hour was observed in the city of Miyazaki — an all-time record. Meanwhile, hourly rainfall of 88.5 mm was recorded in Shingu, Wakayama Prefecture, and Saeki in Oita Prefecture was hit by 42.5 mm per hour.

The strongest winds were clocked in Anan, Tokushima Prefecture, at 123 kph.

In light of the foul weather, West Japan Railway Co. said Saturday it was canceling or suspending train services to and from Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe from the afternoon to evening, and even reducing services within the three cities themselves. The Twilight Express connecting Osaka and Sapporo was also scrapped.

Japan Airlines Corp. and All Nippon Airways Co. alone had canceled more than 150 flights as of Saturday afternoon, while JAL said all scheduled arrivals at Tokyo’s Haneda airport after 8:30 p.m. had been scrubbed.

At Tokyo Skytree, the observation deck closed early at 6 p.m. because of the bad weather, the operator said. The deck, usually open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., will remain closed until 6 p.m. Sunday or beyond if the weather doesn’t improve, it said.

The agency reported that the low-pressure system is forecast to develop over the Sea of Japan and will reach an atmospheric pressure of 970 hectopascals at its center — equivalent to a typhoon — at around 9 a.m. Sunday.

As the system is expected to merge with another by Monday morning around Hokkaido, northern areas of the country and the Hokuriku region on the Sea of Japan coast and could still be affected by stormy winds on Monday, it added.