Double whammy feared; Izu braces for the worst

Big typhoons may collide off Honshu

by Tomohiro Osaki

Staff Writer

Less than a week after being hit by the largest typhoon in a decade, Tokyo is bracing for another strong storm that will likely reach the area Saturday, and it may get merged with an even stronger approaching tempest.

Though less powerful than Typhoon Wipha, incoming tropical cyclone Francisco is rated as “strong,” the Meteorological Agency said. But on a possible collision course is Typhoon Lekima, considered “more fierce.”

As of 3 p.m. Wednesday, Typhoon Francisco, the 27th this year, was located about 180 km south of Minamidaito Island, east of Okinawa, heading northwest at a speed of 15 kph.

The agency previously described the typhoon as “very strong,” but it appears to have passed its peak, weather forecaster Nobuaki Hiramatsu said.

Still, Hiramatsu cautioned that the relatively slow speed of Francisco heralds prolonged rainfall. The possibility remains, he added, that it could lead to the same amount of rain as Wipha brought to Tokyo last weekend.

It has so far proved a daunting task to predict the course of Francisco, Hiramatsu said, partly because the “more fierce” Lekima, the year’s 28th typhoon, may affect its path.

“If it wasn’t for Lekima, Francisco would just go away up north,” he said. But the stronger and faster Lekima is likely to block and even disrupt Francisco, preventing its swift run to the north and altering its path.

The Meteorological Agency said the two storms will likely come in closest proximity to each other Saturday, when Francisco is forecast to linger over the Izu island chain south of Tokyo, unable to move due to the stronger force of Lekima just to its east.

This interaction between two typhoons in close proximity is popularly known as the “Fujiwara Effect,” named after the late meteorologist Sakuhei Fujiwara.

Among the Izu islets is Oshima, which Wipha pounded last week, leaving 29 residents confirmed dead and 15 missing as of Wednesday morning.

Hiramatsu warned that torrential rain could once again pelt Izu-Oshima, leading to a repeat of the mud and landslides that caused so much devastation there.

In preparation for the onslaught of another disastrous typhoon, The local government is gearing up to evacuate 119 people, including elderly and disabled residents, and their families and helpers. Starting Wednesday, the evacuation was to continue through Thursday. The municipality was also canvassing neighborhoods to see how many more residents, especially pregnant women and bedridden people, want to flee the island.

As the two typhoons approached Honshu, concerns were mounting over the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. Tokyo Electric Power Co. drew fire Sunday for failing to prevent rainwater brought by Wipha from overflowing concrete walls enclosing tanks containing radioactive water. At one monitoring point, the spilled rainwater was found to contain strontium-90 at a level of 710 becquerels per liter, 71 times higher than Tepco’s self-imposed limit.

To prevent the same blunder, Tepco on Tuesday began to install tanks with extra pipes to boost their ability to pump out water and transfer it somewhere safer, and added manpower. It will also mobilize a larger number of workers to monitor the situation and carry out the pumping operation more smoothly, according to Tepco spokesman Hiroki Kasuya.

“We’re coming up with various preventative measures, and all we can say is that we will do everything we can to ensure the plant’s safety,” he said.

  • Mike Wyckoff

    I’m curious as to why this is news worthy? Are there any islands that far to the east of Japan?

    On another note, Japan’s weather forecasts are so reliable, there’s a 50% chance nothing will happen….

    • Steve Novosel

      You don’t think two large typhoons intersecting directly offshore this weekend causing a whole lot of rain in an already waterlogged area isn’t newsworthy?

      OoooK.

      We still haven’t recovered from the last heavy rain event.

      • Mike Wyckoff

        yup, so a coin toss is as accurate at predicting the weather.

  • jamescrackscorn

    My bet is by the time they do merge they will be sub tropical…big, and a rain maker, but not some giant super typhoon….Looking forward, this will show up on the US West Coast where they need rain badly, what, next week?