High winds pound Tokyo area; some military base ops impacted
By ERIK SLAVIN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: April 2, 2012
YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — Winds approaching typhoon speeds pounded the Tokyo metropolitan area and much of mainland Japan on Tuesday evening, causing some U.S. military bases to send workers home early and shutter services by mid-afternoon.
Forecasters with the Japan Meteorological Agency said that winds could ultimately reach 87 miles per hour, which would make Tuesday’s wind speed the most intense in the capital since 1959, according to data from the agency’s website.
An 82-year-old woman in Ishikawa, north of Tokyo, died after being knocked over by the wind and hitting her head, according to broadcast network NHK. At least 60 people have been injured in 17 prefectures as of Tuesday evening, according to media reports.
There were no reports of storm-related injuries at any U.S. military bases as of 7:30 p.m.
By 6:30 p.m., wind gusts had reached 70 mph at Yokosuka Naval Base, about 40 miles south of Tokyo, according to the base Naval Oceanography Antisubmarine Warfare Center.
The center’s website forecast winds of about 25 mph by early morning Wednesday, with potential gusts reaching 46 mph. Wind speeds were expected to slow down throughout the day, as of 8 p.m. Tuesday.
Winds were expected to pick up overnight at Misawa Air Base, about 400 miles north of Tokyo, reaching about 50 mph with potential gusts to 70 mph. The winds should begin slowing by 9 a.m. to about 40 mph, according to AFN Misawa’s Facebook page.
Officials at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, about 550 miles southwest of Tokyo, were unavailable late Tuesday. Weather reports indicate that Iwakuni sustained gale-force winds by 2 p.m. Tuesday.
The storm has caused hundreds of flights to be canceled throughout Japan, as well as massive train and traffic delays.
“This is like the core of a typhoon, but it is staying for a long time, whereas a typhoon usually moves rather quickly,” a spokesman for the Japan Meteorological Agency told French news agency AFP on Tuesday. “Winds as strong as this are very rare.”
The winds are forecast to continue north of Tokyo through Wednesday, causing waves of nearly 30 feet, the Japanese Meteorological Agency said on its website.
Yokosuka began releasing its personnel from work at 2 p.m. and canceled all after-school activities as rain began early Tuesday afternoon. The base also closed most of its services between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m.
After-school activities at all base schools in the Kanto Plain area were canceled, school officials said Tuesday afternoon.
Camp Zama recommended allowing military and civilian personnel to leave work early but left the ultimate decision to individual unit commanders, U.S. Army Japan spokesman Maj. Randall Baucom said.
Naval Air Facility Atsugi and Yokota Air Base, both west of Tokyo, maintained normal work operations.
“It’s business as usual,” Senior Master Sgt. Mary Davis said early Tuesday afternoon.
Officials at bases throughout Japan warned residents to pick up any outdoor loose items that could become projectiles prior to the storm’s arrival.
Stars and Stripes reporter Charlie Reed contributed to this report.