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Typhoon Bart remembered

A handful of times in the past few days, PST has invoked the name of Typhoon Bart, the last truly big super typhoon to do extensive damage to Okinawa. Typhoon Neoguri is on target to become the next Bart, posing a significant threat as possibly the most powerful tropical cyclone to hit the island since Bart in September 1999.

Bart was the only super typhoon of the 1999 northwest Pacific tropical cyclone season. It caused $5 billion in damage all told, $5 million alone to Kadena Air Base on Okinawa.

Peak sustained winds were 160 mph on Sept. 22 as it reached the island and raked it with its more dangerous east quadrants, passing 47 miles southwest of Okinawa at its closest point of approach.

Worse, truth be told, than having the eye pass directly over the island; at least folks would have gotten a break there, however brief.

Sasebo Naval Base and Kyushu island were next, as Bart made landfall still packing a powerful right hook, 115-mph sustained winds.

Bart dumped 28 inches of rain on Okinawa. Heavy flooding and landslides contributed to 30 deaths and 1,000 injuries. More than 80,000 homes were damaged and more than 800,000 homes lost power on Okinawa.

The damage continued on Kyushu, specifically Kumamoto Prefecture, where 16 lost their lives and more than 45,000 homes were damaged.

Bart then hurtled back over water, the Sea of Japan (East Sea) and became what’s called an “extratropical cyclone,” one that loses its tropical characteristics, before hitting Japan’s northernmost island of Hokkaido.

There are some interesting, and disturbing, parallels between Bart and Neoguri.

If the latter continues its rapid intensification and remains on its current forecast track, it will become the first Category 5-equivalent cyclone to strike Okinawa since Bart.

While the Joint Typhoon Warning Center’s forecast track takes Neoguri right over the island, at least one outlying dynamic model has Neoguri tracking just west of Okinawa — as Bart did. And in either case, Neoguri’s next forecast destination is Kyushu, very close to Sasebo Naval Base — as was Bart’s.

Are there any Pacific Storm Tracker readers who were on Okinawa 15 years ago when Bart left death and destruction in its wake? Feel free to chime in and tell PST your tales of Bart woe back in the day.
 

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About the Author


Dave Ornauer has been with Stars and Stripes since March 5, 1981. One of his first assignments as a beat reporter in the old Japan News Bureau was “typhoon chaser,” a task which he resumed virtually full time since 2004, the year after his job, as a sports writer-photographer, moved to Okinawa and Ornauer with it.

As a typhoon reporter, Ornauer pores over Web sites managed by the Joint Typhoon Warning Center as well as U.S. government, military and local weather outlets for timely, topical information. Pacific Storm Tracker is designed to take the technical lingo published on those sites and simplify it for the average Stripes reader.