Typhoon Usagi hits Japan
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Typhoon Usagi slammed ashore at 6 p.m. Thursday just north of Miyazaki on Kyushu Island. But it tracked far enough west that Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, which had braced for wind gusts of up to 98 mph, appeared to be spared of Usagi’s worst, a base spokesman said.
Usagi pounded southwestern Japan with gusts of up to 130 mph as it made landfall and plowed along Kyushu’s east coast, disrupting airline, highway and rail traffic and dumping more than 12 inches of rain in some spots.
At midnight Thursday, Usagi churned 63 miles south-southwest of Iwakuni and 115 miles east of Sasebo Naval Base, rumbling north-northwest at 13 mph, packing 104-mph sustained winds and gusts exceeding 125 mph. The Joint Typhoon Warning Center forecast Usagi to roar 14 miles west of Iwakuni at 2 a.m. Friday.
Iwakuni entered Tropical Cyclone Condition of Readiness 1 at 9 a.m. Thursday, followed by TCCOR 1C (caution) at 7 p.m., base spokesman Maj. Billy Canedo said. The base never entered TCCOR 1E and Storm Watch was issued at 4 a.m. Friday.
Just before midnight, the JTWC reported Iwakuni taking gusts of 46 mph; TCCOR 1E typically is declared when sustained 58-mph winds or greater are occurring.
Meanwhile, Sasebo also appeared well out of harm’s way, base spokesman Chuck Howard said. Sasebo remained in TCCOR 2 “on the very remote chance that the storm might wobble west,” Howard said, adding that the all-clear was anticipated for around midnight or soon after.
While Usagi still packed a solid punch, National Weather Service data showed Usagi starting to break up as it approached land.
“It’s not as dangerous as we thought it might be, but it’s still a very powerful storm,” said Capt. Jonathan Wilson, 18th Wing Weather Flight commander at Kadena Air Base Okinawa.
Already by Thursday afternoon, Usagi’s wrath could be felt throughout southwestern Japan. Japan’s public NHK TV news aired footage of wind gusts, heavy rain and flooding.
NHK reported a forecast for as much as 15 inches of rain for Shikoku’s Pacific Ocean side, nearly 10 in northern Kyushu and southern Kinki region and eight in southern Kyushu by mid-afternoon Friday.
Highways were closed and bullet train service between Hiroshima and Hakata was suspended, as were ferries and regular train lines, NHK and Asahi Shimbun reported. At least 11 people were injured by the storm Thursday, Asahi reported.
All-Nippon Airways, Japan Air Lines and their subsidiaries canceled 217 flights serving Kyushu, southwestern Honshu and Shikoku, stranding more than 15,000 passengers, Asahi reported. The Associated Press reported nearly 30,000 homes were without power.
Asahi reported more than 11,000 people were forced to evacuate their homes due to flooding in Yamaguchi, Oita and Miyazaki prefectures. More than 4,000 in Kyushu and Yamaguchi prefectures evacuated voluntarily.
Usagi, the fifth storm of the northwest Pacific’s tropical cyclone season, was forecast to curve sharply northeast as it made its way into the Sea of Japan early Friday morning.
U.S. bases in the Kanto Plain remained in TCCOR Storm Watch on Thursday. The closest point of approach was forecast for 300 miles northwest of Camp Fuji at 6 p.m. Friday.
Well to the northeast, Misawa Air Base could feel the effects of Usagi’s remnants, forecast to skitter 75 miles north of Misawa at noon Saturday, with sustained 46-mph winds and 58-mph gusts at its center. Misawa weather flight officials said no weather warnings or TCCORs had been issued by Thursday afternoon.
Stars and Stripes reporters Jennifer H. Svan and Hana Kusumoto contributed to this story.