Southern S. Korea bears brunt of Maemi
September 14, 2003
YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — Typhoon Maemi lashed winds of up to 135 miles per hour as it slammed into southern South Korea on Friday and Saturday, knocking down trees and part of a wall on Camp Walker.
More than 120 trees were toppled overnight by the storm, said Area IV public relations officer Kevin Jackson, but no injuries had been reported by mid-morning Saturday. Portions of a perimeter wall at the Camp Walker heliport had also been knocked over, damaging several cars parked nearby.
“Right now we have crews out assessing the damage and we will have public works crews and soldiers out starting the cleanup,” Jackson said by phone Saturday.
Road conditions on Taegu installations were set at red, meaning only essential or emergency vehicles were allowed on the streets. Officials encouraged base residents to stay at home until the cleanup was complete.
Maemi, named after Korean cicadas, dumped up to 10 inches of rain in southern South Korea, flooding more than 30 intercity roads and hundreds of acres of farmland, disaster relief and weather officials said.
A 58-year-old Korean sailor in the port city of Seogwipo was reported killed when a line from his sand-hauling boat tore off one of his legs, police officials said.
Farther north, the storm meant heavy rains and gusts of wind. But because the storm hit in the early morning hours, most people slept through the heaviest downpours. By Saturday morning, the skies had cleared and the sun was shining.
At Osan Air Base authorities were expecting five to seven inches of rain and winds at times gusting to up to 45 miles per hour overnight and into Saturday, said 1st Lt. Tom Montgomery, a base spokesman.
Aircraft were moved into hangars and work crews tied down loose items and sandbagged low-lying areas in preparation for wind and heavy rains, he said.
And the base even had an eye on what was happening indoors.
“People living in the first floors of buildings have been highly encouraged to move valuables and electronics off the floor,” Montgomery said, warning of possible flooding.
At Kunsan Air Base, too, officials girded for rough weather.
Personnel were restricted to the base, except for those departing on temporary duty or permanent reassignment, but only if they could get off-base by 9 p.m. Friday, said 1st Lt. Herb McConnell, a base spokesman.
“People who live off-base are highly encouraged to go to their quarters,” McConnell said.
And the base was calling for residents to bring indoors anything that might pose a hazard in the storm, he said.
But the storm dealt only a glancing blow to central and northern South Korea, adding to an already wet summer. Weather officials said Seoul had received more than double the amount of rain it usually gets in August, and the trend was continuing through September.
As a precaution, the government suspended all commuter sea ferries and most domestic flights on Friday. Most services had returned to normal by Saturday, in time for the crush of Chusok travelers returning from their visits to relatives.
More than 30 million South Koreans had taken to the roads this weekend during the holiday, which celebrates the harvest season and is similar to American Thanksgiving.
— Franklin Fisher and Choe Song-won contributed to this report.