Typhoon Season

July 8, 2006

Typhoon Ewiniar is headed for Okinawa and due to hit sometime tonight. This will be the first typhoon of the season for us. Typhoons and hurricanes are basically the same thing...big, big storms but here are some of the differences I have observed since living in Okinawa (and having grown up in Louisiana).

Hurricanes are given personal first names in alphabetical order and the list of names rotates every six years. In 2000, countries throughout the Pacific decided to use a different naming system and each country submitted "names"...words for flowers, animals, and some personal names in the native language for the submitting country. Here is a list of the 141 tyhphoon names http://www.weather.gov.hk/informtc/sound/tcname2000e.htm

Another major difference we have seen between typhoons and hurricanes is in the level of impact. Each summer Okinawa bears the brunt of several large typhoons including super typhoons which are the same as level 4 and 5 hurricanes. Despite very high winds, we have never lost electricity, water, or phone service. We have never had to board up or tape our windows. Modern Okinawa architecture is not very attractive (block concrete buildings) but it can withstand some pretty impressive storms. I really think the Gulf Coast of the United States could learn a lot from Okinawa.

Now the interesting thing to observe in Okinawa is the difference in reactions between Americans and Okinawans. The Americans, especially those new to the island, run to the commissary (on-base grocery store) and stand in huge lines to purchase tons of water and supplies (despite many base announcements throughout the year encouraging folks to keep a stock of typhoon supplies). The Japanese grocery stores are rarely overflowing in the same way before a storm. For those Americans living on base, we are not allowed to leave our homes or the base once a certain level is reached (depending on proximity of the storm). When we lived out in town, we were amazed to see how many of our Okinawan neighbors would continue to drive even during the worst parts of the storm.

Hopefully Typhoon Ewiniar will be an easy going storm and just give us a nice weekend hunkered down at home enjoying some intense family time ...not quite as wild as a Cajun Hurricane Party, but we'll have time for those next summer in Florida! If you want to follow this typhoon or others in the Pacific, check out the Joint Typhoon Center website http://www.npmoc.navy.mil/jtwc.html.
Ann said...

Good luck guys hope it's not too bad. You guys will arrive in the height of hurricane seasone here, and oh yah, a lot of people lose electricity here if the storm hits. You'd think that Florida would learn, but oh well..

rie said...

we're both in kyusyu,but I know there's a big difference between Okinawa and Amagi.We also must learn from Okinawa! It's windy here in Amagi right now!!!

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