The following correction to this story was posted June 23: A June 22 story should have said that there has been one named storm so far in the in 2006 Pacific typhoon season. Typhoon Chanchu affected the northern Philippines islands in May.

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Okinawa’s rainy season officially ended Tuesday, a few days earlier than usual and just inches short of last year’s record rains.

A week after nonstop showers caused unprecedented landslides, forcing several road closures and the evacuation of almost 400 people, sunny skies signaled that the annual rainy season, which began May 14, was over.

It ended three days earlier than in an average year and was a week shorter than 2005’s rainy season.

The Okinawa Meteorological Observatory recorded that 38 inches of rain fell during the cloudy 36 days, more than twice as much as an average year’s 12.4 inches. The measured rainfall was only about two inches shy of 2005’s record, when 40.8 inches of rain drenched the island.

“What made the rainy season for this year unusual was the nonstop, continual rain for many days,” said Tsunesada Higa, a weather forecaster for the observatory. Rain fell nonstop for 20 days, May 23-June 11.

The long rainy spell caused landslides in many parts of the island. In Nakagusuku, Naha, Tomishiro, Nago and Uruma, 387 people in 116 families were forced to to leave their homes, according to Okinawa’s Crisis Management and Disaster Prevention Office.

“It was the first time Okinawa had such a major disaster during the rainy season,” said Taketoshi Onaga, the office’s crisis management team chief.

The Kita Uebaru district of Nakagusuku saw the most damage: 275 people had to leave their homes June 10.

Also, as of Tuesday, 86 residents of Shuri in Naha remained homeless due to unstable ground under their apartment building.

“The steady rain did not give time for the ground to dry,” Onaga said. The rain seeped deep, weakening ground under the apartment building’s foundation.

The rainy season’s end marks summer’s official start, with high temperatures climbing to the upper 80s paralleled by high humidity.

It also marks the unofficial start of the island’s typhoon season, Higa said. Okinawa, in what’s called “Typhoon Alley,” is in the direct path of an average 3.6 typhoons every year.

“However, it will be a while until a typhoon is expected to approach Okinawa,” he said.

The rainy season was good for the island’s reservoirs, which had been drying up just months ago. Officials with the Okinawa Drought Countermeasure Council, which oversees the island’s water supply, announced that the water level at the island’s 10 reservoirs now is at 99.7 percent of its capacity.

“We are satisfied with the water situation now,” said Tetsuo Minei of the Okinawa General Bureau, a Tokyo government agency that manages seven of the reservoirs. But that always can change, he added.

“The water level reached 100 percent in June 18 last year after a record rainfall,” he said. “Yet that July we had an unusually dry spell with no typhoons.”

... typhoon season is next

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — A weather disturbance 400 miles southwest of Okinawa caused 18th Weather Flight officials at Kadena Air Base to issue Tropical Cyclone Condition of Readiness-3 for the island on Tuesday afternoon.

But “conditions are not favorable” for the first named storm of the 2006 Pacific typhoon season to form,” said 18th Weather Flight officer Capt. Colin Reece.

The island usually stays in a precautionary TCCOR-4 during the Pacific’s typhoon season, which officially began on June 1. TCCOR-3 was declared at 3:50 p.m. Japan time Tuesday.

“It’s something to watch,” Reece said, warranting “an alert that it’s out there.”

The “extreme worst case” scenario, Reece said, would be for the storm to push north and be large enough to cause 58-63 mph wind gusts. More likely, he added, the island would feel 35-46 mph wind gusts on Thursday.

“It will be short-lived,” Reece said: As it moves north, cooler water surface temperatures will cause it to “dissipate rapidly.”

“Right now,” Reece said, “the conditions aren’t favorable [for] this thing [to] get beyond tropical-depression level.”

On average, four or five tropical storms per season affect Okinawa, he said.

— Stars and Stripes

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