Typhoon Roke made landfall near Hamamatsu City in Shizuoka Prefecture at around 05:00 UTC (14:00 local time) on September 21, killing at least six people and bringing powerful winds and heavy rain to the landfall region. Roke came ashore as a borderline category 1/category 2 typhoon, according to the Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC). Winds of around 100 mph (160 kmph) were reported near the landfall point. Roke rapidly intensified from a category 1 typhoon into a category 4 typhoon on its approach to Japan but the storm weakened just before it made landfall. The storm is currently located around 125 miles (200 kilometers) west-southwest of Tokyo and packs sustained winds of around 80 mph (130 kmph), equivalent to a category 1 typhoon. Roke is tracking northeast at 25 mph (40 kmph) and the JTWC expects the storm to move across Japan’s main island of Honshu today, possibly in the direction of Fukushima Prefecture where the earthquake-damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant is located. The JTWC said typhoon force winds currently extend 75 miles (120 kilometers) from the center of the storm while tropical storm-force winds extend 210 miles (340 kilometers).
Prior to Roke coming ashore, the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) issued severe weather warnings for central and western regions of Honshu and urged “the highest level of caution be used because of the heavy rain, strong wind and high waves”. More than 1.2 million people were advised to evacuate their homes in the prefectures of Aichi, Gifu, Hyogo, Miyazaki, Oita and Wakayama over flooding fears. Many evacuation advisories have now been lifted, but officials warn that 330,000 people remain at risk. It was not immediately clear how many people had followed the advice, which falls short of mandatory evacuation orders.
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Reports said six people were killed in the prefectures of Aichi, Ehime, Saga, Nagasaki and Kumamoto after heavy rain and flooding hit western Japan. Officials reported floods and road damage in dozens of locations in Nagoya and several other cities in Aichi Prefecture. Reports said wind damage has also been reported near the landfall area and at least 250,000 households lost power. All forms of transportation were disrupted as several motorways were closed, hundreds of flights were cancelled and some bullet train services were suspended. Reports said car maker Toyota is suspending production at 11 of its plants in Aichi Prefecture. Operations at plants owned by Nissan and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries were also disrupted, officials said. In Tokyo, several businesses and schools closed early due to the severe weather from Roke while the port of Yokkaichi was forced to shut.
Officials say flooding is the primary concern associated with Roke. Reports said the storm dumped 16 inches (400 millimeters) of rain in 24 hours in the southwestern prefecture of Miyazaki. Heavy rain is also expected in other areas of Japan over the next 24 hours, with the Kanto-Koshinetsu region in eastern Japan forecast to receive 12 inches (300 millimeters) of rainfall. Around 10 inches (250 millimeters) of rain is also forecast to fall in the Tokai, Hokuriku and Tohoku regions. The JMA has specifically warned of the flooding and landslide threat in the western prefecture of Wakayama after it was badly affected by Tropical Storm Talas earlier this month.
According to the JTWC, tropical storm force winds are expected to affect parts of the densely populated regions of Chubu, Kanto and Tohoku, including the capital of Tokyo. The latest JTWC forecast indicates the Tokyo metropolitan area is in the northeastern quadrant of the storm, subjecting the city to Roke’s strongest winds and heaviest rain. Although there is some uncertainty associated with Roke’s forecast track, the storm is currently expected to move through eastern parts of Honshu as it continues to move in a northeasterly direction. Roke is expected to weaken and be downgraded to a tropical storm as it moves across Japan. Forecasters said its forward speed is expected to see the storm cross Japan in around 12 hours.
Forecasters warn Roke’s trajectory could see it head towards Japan’s earthquake-hit Tohoku region, where the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant is located. Reports said there are concerns that Roke’s heavy rains could force radioactive water into the sea. A spokesman for the plant’s owner, Tepco, said the firm was taking “every possible measure against the typhoon”.
Sources: Joint Typhoon Warning Center, WSI, Agence France Presse, Kyodo News, Reuters News, CNN News
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