Commonly asked questions during typhoons
KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- For newcomers to Okinawa, typhoons can be overwhelming.
Okinawa sits in the midst of "Typhoon Alley," which means Team Kadena experiences this weather phenomenon seasonally.
Typhoons in the Pacific Ocean and hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean are the same thing, although typhoons do not have the same categorization of intensity as tropical storms in the United States.
To ensure the safety and mission readiness of all personnel on Okinawa at all times, the 18th Operations Support Squadron's Weather Flight works 24/7 to provide ample information about the dangerous weather conditions from the time they form to the time they pass by the island.
The weather flight is responsible for issuing weather forecasts every eight hours, monitoring sea conditions and tropical cyclone conditions of readiness, as well as providing pre-mission weather briefings.
When tropical storms and typhoons form in the region, the Weather Flight serves as a focal point for typhoon information on Okinawa.
Capt. Matthew Klick, 18th OSS Weather Flight commander, and Master Sgt. Tonya Trythall, 18th OSS Weather Flight chief, answer commonly asked questions about TCCORs and complications caused by the storms:
Q: Who sets the TCCOR for Okinawa?
A: The 18th Wing Commander on Kadena sets the TCCOR for the entire island of Okinawa. It is U.S. Forces Japan's instruction that says the wing commander is the TCCOR authority for Okinawa service members, civilian U.S. Government employees, and their families.
Q: How does the weather flight gather data to determine TCCORs?
A: We get our information from the Joint Weather center on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. They've been doing this for 30-40 years. They send out the storm's track for all Department of Defense agencies in the Pacific, determine the location of the storm, pinpoint the starting location of the storm, and compare models of the storm. When they send us the product, we take that and apply it to specific areas of the island that will be affected. Even if Kadena is not expecting wind gusts up to 50 knots, sometimes Naha will get 50 knots. The TCCOR-1E is not determined by what's happening just on Kadena, but the entire island. Observations are taken from multiple military agencies as well as Japanese agencies. We then recommend the TCCOR to the wing commander, who then implements the TCCOR with recommendations from other installation commanders, Emergency Management and the 18th Civil Engineer Squadron.
Q: Why don't we have consistency in the TCCOR updates?
A: The storm doesn't necessarily follow what the forecast says. For example, Typhoon Chan-hom doubled in size as it approached Kadena. What was expected to be a smaller storm with an area around the center of the storm of 35-40 knot winds turned into an area of 50-60 knot winds that were twice as big.
Q: Why are the updates given often dated several hours earlier?
A: That is the way we get it. For example if the Joint Typhoon Weather Center takes the position of the typhoon at noon, it takes them three hours to process and run all the models for the forecast. It then takes us an hour to an hour-and-a-half to crunch those numbers and specifically apply them to Okinawa. The position is what is annotated by the time. However, the forecast given is current.
Q: Where can people go to get the latest information on typhoons and TCCOR levels?
A: People can go to the 18th Operations Support Squadron's Weather Flight's website at http://shogunweather.com/ the official Kadena Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/KadenaAirBase and also use official sources through their chain of command, when there are questions with reporting to work. It is always best to speak with your chain of command because they will be able to give you guidance for each TCCOR.
Q: Why does the recovery process take so long?
A: When the wind drops below 50 knots sustained we can be considered out of TCCOR-1E. That's when we recommend to move to TCCOR-1R. We wait about one hour to an hour-and-a-half, until it stops everywhere on the island.
Q: Why are we on lockdown and in heightened levels of safety while the local community is "business as usual?"
A: The local community has been here for their entire lives. They deal with typhoons every year. We constantly receive new personnel that have never seen these kinds of storms before, so they are much more cognizant of the storms. The most important thing in the Air Force is the people, so we will protect our people by telling them to stay inside to protect everyone from injury.
Q: Why are all report times for military personnel different? Wouldn't it be easier for all personnel to report at the same time and everything to open at the same time?
A: It depends on your job -- what's mission essential and what's not mission essential. It depends on the agreements with local national employee's contracts and the amount of time it takes to do the recovery. For example, it could take Kadena three days to complete repairs. However, it could take Okuma an hour to recover. Would you really want Okuma personnel not to come into work for three days while waiting for Kadena to clean up?
Q: When all clear/ storm watch/ TCCOR-4 is called, how can military personnel be expected to report as soon as possible if the Child Development Centers are closed?
A: Part of the recovery process is to have people come in and check the CDCs so personnel with children can get to work faster as they come into base. It is also up to the unit's commanders as to how fast their personnel are expected to report to duty.