Reflections on Typhoon Hagibis

Japan was recently hit by Typhoon Hagibis, which was equivalent to a category 4 hurricane once it hit landfall. It was said to be the worst storm to hit Japan since 1958.

Being a direct hit to lower Tokyo, Chiba prefecture was hit the hardest. The storm brought in dozens of deaths, localized flooding, and damage to single-family homes. Hundreds of thousands lost power.

Being in Tokyo, the storm hit me as well, so I thought I'd share what the experience was like.

Prior to the storm on Friday, everyone prepared by stocking up on water and essential foods. Most interestingly, I found it completely impossible to find any bread in the city. Every convenience store and grocery store was picked clean. However, I noticed that the tortillas were left untouched, and so I stocked up on those.

Japan's homes are tightly sealed from the outside for power efficiency, and so homes have indoor vents to allow outside air to come in. I'm told that it's best to close these during storms. It was also essential to clear all of our balconies from all objects that could be blown away.

Typically you will see many things on Japanese balconies: futons (a type of bed) being left to air out, laundry, clothes lines, and so forth. But before the storm, you could sense the eeriness in seeing every balcony completely empty.

Another thing we do is fill bathtubs with clean water, just in case water service is disrupted for a time.

There are cellphone alerts to indicate whether there are compulsory or voluntary evacuation orders, and in my case, there were none, so I waited the storm out at home.

Virtually everything in Tokyo was shut down on Saturday. No businesses, train services, etc were open.

What I found frustrating about the storm reporting was never getting a definitive answer of when it would reach northern Tokyo. I had heard everything from Saturday afternoon to early Sunday in the morning. The worst of the storm ended up being around 6-10pm for me here.

Now thankfully, modern Japanese buildings are made to handle earthquakes and typhoons, and so in my case I was fortunate enough to avoid any property damage or even loss of power. Essentially it was sustained rain for a long time, almost 24 hours straight, with about 4-6 hours being the worst of it with very heavy rains.

Wind gusts picked up to about 30-60mph here, and were enough to shake the building I reside in. This is actually intentional, the buildings are designed to flex to ease the stresses put on them from earthquakes, and so there was no cause for concern about this.

The most damage was felt from the older and more traditional single-family homes that were more susceptible to the heavy winds.

After the storm, there was some debris from trees and the like, but nothing too major. My area thankfully avoided any significant flooding.

On Sunday, nearly all of Tokyo was alive once more.

There are still rescue operations underway for victims of the storm, cleanup crews out to remove debris, and so forth.

I was fortunate in my own case, but many here unfortunately were not. My heart and sympathies go out to those most affected by the storm.


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