Typhoon 16W (Bolaven): How to pass the time in lockdown, afterward
Published: August 26, 2012
Now that Tropical Cyclone Condition of Readiness 1-E is near/here, we’ve arrived at an island-wide lockdown forecast to be rather lengthy in nature. Probably lasting until early to mid-morning Monday. (cue the loud groan in the background).
Yep, I know. They’re never fun, they’re always tedious and utterly boring, but … when TCCOR 1-E is issued and everybody must stay inside as directed by the U.S. Forces Japan instruction, they must stay inside for a reason.
At 58 mph or higher, winds are considered destructive enough that assessments must be done once the storm has come and gone. The most innocuous objects can become dangerous airborne missiles. It becomes difficult to stand up.
Thus, all outside activity is prohibited, save for emergency essential personnel making the rounds to ensure everybody is off the streets and reporting and repairing whatever damage they can, given the circumstances.
If you are outside on base, one of those humvees with the MPs fully decked out in helmets and flak vests will invariably stop, round you up and dispatch you to your quarters, hopefully with just a stern warning; most likely to be followed up with a phone call to your CO or XO.
If you’re off base, you might see locals still making their rounds in their cars, hustling hither and thither as if nothing’s amiss. That does NOT mean it’s safe for you to venture from your quarters. At those wind speeds, you’ll have trouble controlling your car. Some folks think it’s cool to head to the shores and watch the breakers or – worst of all – see how their surfing skills work with waves forecast to be as high as 52 feet. Resist any and all temptation. A good way to get seriously hurt by slamming into a coral deposit just below the water or get swept out to sea.
The best option? Stay indoors. It offers the fewest safety question marks and variables.
So, what do we do inside? Will my house get damaged? Will the power and water go off? Will our satellite dish blow away?
The winds will howl and the windows will rattle as if it’s the end of the world. But you’d be surprised at how much punishment the buildings on Okinawa can withstand, both on and off base. There might be some tertiary damage, such as a window breaking or water seeping in through the roof or under the windows or doors. Nothing a few towels or water buckets can’t cure, at least for the moment.
Understand that at some point, your water service might be interrupted. Good idea to fill the bathtub even if you have enough drinking water; it will allow you to flush and bathe. Also, the power might go off, especially if you’re off base, and high wind gusts might knock your satellite dish askew. If you’ve secured the dish properly, chances are it will remain in place, and you’ll have to realign it when the storm departs.
Until it does, keep your cell phones charged. Keep your TV decoder on Channel 21, which is the AFN-Pacific Okinawa feed. It will show you the current TCCOR in the corner of the screen. For as long as the power remains on, keep your refrigerator’s thermostat on its highest setting; then, when the power does go off, keep it closed as much as possible to retain as much cold as possible.
When the power does go off, if you took the time before the storm to get a portable battery-operated radio, tune it to AFN radio Wave 89.1 FM or Surf 648 AM, where a conga line of disc jockeys will take turns spinning the CDs until the all-clear is announced.
Then get out the board games or the battery-operated video games. Nothing like a Monopoly marathon to help pass the time. Or if you have a battery-operated DVD player, a movie marathon could be in the works.
When you dine, make sure you have your meals together as a family. Strength in unity. Discuss things. With the kiddies, why not discuss their goals and hopes for the coming school year (aside from wanting it to end, yes, I know *grin*). Think positive thoughts. Know that eventually, the storm will pass and power will be restored.
Above all else, do NOT telephone Kadena’s 18th Wing Weather Flight and pepper them with “When do we go TCCOR 1-R?” questions. Winds will diminish below 58 mph when they diminish below 58 mph. Last year during Typhoon Muifa, we were expecting to go 1-R early Friday evening, when the back side of that typhoon mushroomed into what seemed like endless streams of winds and rain squalls. To the tune of 40 inches of rain in a 24-hour period. It will happen when it happens. The Weather Flight folks are extremely busy during times like these. Let them do their jobs. Plenty of other places to get info.
What if the eye of the typhoon passes over us? Is it safe to go out then?
Not at all. Couldn’t be a worse time to go out.
The eye of a hurricane/cyclone/typhoon is considered the siren song of tropical weather. Only instead of a Greek mythology chorus of sweet-sounding music and voices designed to shipwreck sailors, this song is one of silence.
Eye passage over the island will be preceded by what feels like the absolute worst of the typhoon’s winds. Then … nothing. The winds cease, the skies become pastel blue and everything seems hunky dory (although a bit on the humid side). If the eye is 20 miles wide and the storm is moving northwest at 7 mph, the place should remain remarkably clear and calm for more than 2½ hours.
Then … WHAM! Out of that clear blue comes the back part of the typhoon, with a new, fierce batch of winds – sometimes more fierce than the last ones – gusting in the opposite direction.
What to do after TCCOR 1-R (recovery) is declared?
Not time to go outside yet. Especially following typhoons that lasted awhile and/or packed a bouncy-house round-house high-wind haymaker, a whole mess of mess could still be out there. Flooding, downed power lines, downed tree limbs – heck, even whole trees – cars can be turned on their sides
This is when assessment teams fan out to survey that damage. This is when staff civil fans out to repair those downed power lines and clear those tree limbs. On some bases, it might take longer than others. Again, patience is the key.
So, when is it safe to go out?
TCCOR Storm Watch follows TCCOR 1-R, during which time the storm might still be in the area moving away, but could return in some isolated cases. Usually about two hours after SW is issued is when people start returning to work. In some cases, not every base or camp will enter SW at the same time; some bases may still have damage issues that need attention.
Obviously, when the all-clear is announced or when the island returns to seasonal TCCOR 4 is usually the best clue that everything’s OK and you can go about your business.
What other things do people do during storms to make things more pleasant?
Anybody else have better ideas as to what to do to make the passage of a storm easier? How about dropping them in the comments box below? You might have some point of view that most of us hadn’t even considered.