The Spiral of Death and Destruction: Typhoon Hagibis

By: Nicole Chedraoui

There was not a single grocery item left on site in local super markets of Honshu, Japan, as the residents of Japan’s  main island anticipate the catastrophe rapidly heading their way. Over 7 million citizens were put under emergency evacuation with the expectation of the super typhoon hitting late Saturday night bringing in the most destructive winds and rainfall meteorologists have seen in the last 60 years. 

The recovering town had recently been hit by Faxai, an extreme super typhoon, leaving many buildings roofless and in need of significant repairs. Damage from the prior storm less than 30 days earlier had left many residents with homes with no roofs.  Typhoon Hagibis’ high winds brought more roof destruction, in some cases causing roofs to collapse on their owners. This was just the beginning of the destruction. East of the Capital Tokyo, in Chiba Prefecture, residents started feeling the effects of the superstorm hours before other areas of Japan, such as Honshu, who later got hit pretty hard. As a result of the impending danger, a number of municipal governments issued evacuation orders to this area.  However, many anticipated the storms arrival much later in the afternoon continued to stay on the roads in search of groceries to prepare. This led to many residents’ cars being flipped on busy highways and side roads, injuring and killing those inside the vehicle, bringing the death toll to a total of 4 before the storm even reached its peak.  

As the storm advanced and reached its full strength, it made landfall in Honshu, Japan on October 8th.  The residents could not have imagined the impending evisceration of their homes. This super typhoon showed no mercy, reaching peak wind speeds up to 157 mph, a Category 5 hurricane.  In just 24 hours ,it had released 3 feet of rain, and in many locations, it showed no signs of stopping.  According to a report from The Washington Post’s Simon Denyer, more than 20 rivers in central and northeastern Japan burst their banks, flooding more than 1,000 homes in cities and villages, resulting in countless flooded homes and collapsed bridges. The government issued an advisory for over 8 million residents to evacuate. 

Flooding was most severe in Nagano, Japan, where waters from the Chikuma River damaged a fleet of high-speed bullet trains that were parked in a maintenance rail depot. Many were left devastated at the destruction left in the wake of the storm on such an iconic and honorable location of their hometown. This town has grown accustomed to typhoons and the mess they leave behind, enduring, on average, at least six typhoons per season with some never making landfall.  Out of all the typhoons, Hagibis stands out not only for its intensity but also the path it took. The majority of prior typhoons hit the southwest region of Japan first and weakened significantly by the time they hit Tokyo, but Hagibis’ inner core swept directly across the most highly- populated areas of the country. As the heaviest rains and strongest winds reside in the inner core of the typhoon, Tokyo was more severely impacted. The damage and destruction to Tokyo left entire towns as well as their residents underwater.  Within 24 hours, 58 were found dead, with 26 more reported dead in the Shibita district by Sunday evening. The death toll eventually rose to the high 70’s, with many residents injured or still missing. The majority of houses lost all power and water with temperatures hovering around 15 degrees celsius for the past week.  250,000 have reported no water or power after the worst of the storm had hit; however, it’s suspected thousands of other outages had gone unreported. 

 Helicopters and search parties continued to help find residents who may be trapped by floodwaters.  However help was on the way, Members of Japans’ Ground Self-Defense Force lugged around a flat-bottomed boat all day and night during relief operations, assisting nine local governments’ requests for assistance. Taro Kono, Japan’s Defense Minister, announced that a force of 31,000 troops had been assembled along with 40 aircraft to help find and rescue many residents from flooding, landslides and mudflows.

Typhoon Hagibis will be remembered  as a multi-billion dollar disaster. Unfortunately, meteorologists and scientists alike say that Japan, as well as many other countries across the globe, can expect more storms like Hagibis, due in large part to warming seas as a result of NWC-caused global warming.  Currently, there is evidence showing tropical cyclones in the northwest Pacific Ocean basin reaching their maximum intensities farther north than they used to, a trend attributed to climate change.  This trend will continue to send more intense storms to areas that normally experience weaker storms, like Honshu, and other areas of northeastern Japan. As the world continues to heat up, and water vapor rises and enters the atmosphere, the vapor becomes fuel for more powerful storms to develop.  More heat in the atmosphere along with the warmer oceans can contribute more intense wind speeds in tropical storms and typhoons, like Hagibis. 

The destruction this beautiful country has faced and continues to face is truly heartbreaking. I hope we as humans can move forward to become more globally conscious. 

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