KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- It’s that time again here in Okinawa. Typhoon season is in full swing, with a constant flow of people coming and going, it’s likely many on the island have yet to experience one.
Luckily, Kadena’s weather flight works around the clock to provide the island with the most accurate weather forecasts.
“The weather flight provides mission weather forecast for the flying area on the island of Okinawa,” said Corey Lane, 18th Operations Support Squadron meteorology technician. “We also watch the weather patterns that affect the island, such as typhoons.”
A typhoon is a tropical cyclone that develops in the western part of the North Pacific Ocean. This region of the world accounts for almost one-third of the Earth’s annual tropical cyclones and an average of three typhoons make landfall in Japan every year.
While tracking typhoons may not be that difficult, predicting where it will go is the hard part.
“For the most part we use model data, a lot of our typhoon predictions come from the Joint Typhoon Warning Center in Hawaii,” said Lane. “Tracking them is not difficult, but with formation and movement there’s so much variability in different model algorithms.”
Weather agencies use computer algorithms to best predict a typhoon’s path, but not all are the same when one first forms.
“In the long range they’re fairly difficult to predict if models aren’t in agreement, but once the different models get closer in agreement we get a pretty good eye on predicting them,” said Lane.
Along with predicting incoming typhoons is the announcement of the levels of Tropical Cyclone Condition of Readiness.
“We have TCCOR levels one through five along with other categories in TCCOR 1 such as 1C (caution), 1E (emergency) and 1R (recovery),” said Staff Sgt. Sean Hilliard, 18th OSS weather forecaster.
These TCCOR levels provide a guide of how far out the storm is from Okinawa or how strong the storm is while hitting the island.
“TCCOR 5 means destructive winds are possible within 96 hours and while not in typhoon season,” said Hilliard. “We are TCCOR 4 from June 1 through Nov. 30 because that is our typhoon season, which means destructive winds are possible within 72 hours.”
TCCOR 3 means destructive winds are possible within 48 hours. People should begin initial preparations like general cleanup around houses and facilities and stocking up on food and emergency supplies.
TCCOR 2 indicates destructive winds are anticipated within 24 hours and small items outside buildings should be secured.
TCCOR 1 means destructive winds are anticipated within 12 hours. DoDDS schools are closed and people should return home to make final preparations.
“In TCCOR 1C, the island is currently experiencing winds of 35-49 knots,” said Hilliard. “All non-essential personnel will be released to their quarters and remain indoors.”
When winds pick up to more than 50 knots, TCCOR 1E is announced. Personnel are to stay indoors and away from windows, while outdoor movement is restricted to lifesaving actions only by authorized personnel.
“If a typhoon hits, we will be sitting here in our weather station monitoring the weather conditions throughout the island and providing forecast for everybody in Okinawa,” said Lane.
The Kadena Facebook page and the Shogun Weather website will keep the base informed of all updates.
After the storm has passed, TCCOR 1R is established. Work crews are sent out to assess the damage and establish safe zones around potential hazards such as downed power lines or unstable structures. Until the possible dangers are mitigated and the all clear is given, the general base population is asked to still remain indoors.
In TCCOR Storm Watch, winds of 50 knots are not forecasted but there is still a possibility of high winds due to the proximity of the storm. Finally once everything has subsided, the all clear is called, and the TCCOR returns to normal.
Typhoons can be a dangerous and destructive force that should not be taken lightly. Make sure to take the proper precautions and stay tuned to AFN Okinawa, www.facebook.com/KadenaAirBase or shogunweather.com for any updates on upcoming or occurring typhoons.