Over the weekend, Japan suffered severe flooding due to Typhoon Hagibis, the most powerful storm to hit the country since 1958, according to NPR.

Alumnus was under threat of evacuation during Japan’s largest storm in decades

During his year studying in Tokyo, Quin LaComb, ’17, was under the threat of evacuation over the weekend due to Typhoon Hagibis, Japan’s largest storm in decades, according to The New York Times. As of Oct. 14, the typhoon has left 56 people dead, 17 missing and 100 injured, according to Japanese national broadcaster NHK.

Q: How far away were you from the typhoon? 

A: The house I’m living in is in Taito City, which is a district in eastern Tokyo. Since the typhoon was about 1,400 kilometers (870 miles) in diameter, it hit all of Tokyo and a lot of the surrounding areas as well.

Q: What was it like in Tokyo with the typhoon?

A: Since Tokyo is a modern city, typhoons are seen more as hindrances than actual dangers due to the excellent infrastructure and steps taken to reduce damages from natural disasters. 

However, the same can’t be said for many of the other parts of Japan. A lot of the areas that were hit are more rural than Tokyo, (so) they encountered much worse flooding and other side effects of the typhoon. 

(My housemates and I) were watching the news a lot when the typhoon was coming in, and the extent of the damages done to certain areas is unbelievable. There was actually a tornado caused by the typhoon in a more southern part of Japan that ended up flipping a car and killing the man inside. So even though it’s not considered extremely dangerous in Tokyo, it is still a natural disaster that can (and did) seriously impact a lot of Japan.

Also, I’m not sure if it was a result of the typhoon or just a coincidence, but an earthquake hit us during the storm as well. We couldn’t tell if it was the wind shaking the house or an earthquake, but it ended up being the latter.

The earthquake wasn’t too bad. It shook the house noticeably, but not so much that I thought that I was in danger. I believe it was around 5 in magnitude.

Q: How did you prepare for the storm?

A: I know that a lot of people have to tape up their windows to prevent them from cracking or shattering from debris and/or high winds. Fortunately, I live in a house that was recently renovated, meaning that my windows have steel mesh inside them so they don’t break or shatter too easily. All I had to do to prepare was get food and water and make sure that all of my spare batteries were charged. 

Most, if not all, shops closed during the typhoon, so it was important to buy groceries beforehand so you could actually eat and drink when the typhoon hit. We were also under the threat of having severe power outages, so having spare batteries and flashlights was incredibly important. Luckily, our power stayed on throughout the entire storm.

Q: Did you consider evacuating?

A: My house is about a two-minute walk away from Sumida River, which was possibly going to overflow and flood the area, so we had to be ready to evacuate at any given time. There’s a danger level assigned to different districts, and based on those, certain people have to evacuate. The system is on a one-to-five scale, with five being the most dangerous. At level three, which is the level that we were at for the duration of the storm, all elderly people are told to evacuate. At level four, we would have had to leave. We never quite reached that, but a lot of our neighboring districts did end up going that high and having to evacuate.

Q: What did you do during the storm?

A: My housemates and I just had a movie night. We had bought a bunch of snacks and drinks earlier in the day, so we just sat down and hung out until the storm passed. From inside the house, it more or less just felt like any other heavy storm. We could really only see how serious it was when we looked out the window.

As for the wind and rain, it was much stronger than anything in California. It was absolutely pouring rain for a couple hours, but the wind was only occasionally very strong. But there were times where we could see the rain in the street lamps, and the wind would be blowing it sideways or sometimes back up into the sky.

Q: Was there any flooding or damage in your area?

A: There was no flooding and no visible damage. Walking around the next day, it almost seemed like it never happened.

Q: How did it impact businesses and stores near you?

A: You aren’t supposed to go outside when there’s a typhoon, especially one of this caliber. As such, most stores closed hours before the storm hit and didn’t reopen until the morning after. 

Prior to the typhoon, the only way it affected stores is that a lot of them sold out of most prepared foods and water because everyone was starting to stockpile in preparation. 

But after it was over, most of the convenience stores opened pretty quickly. I was actually able to go out and get some ice cream from a 7-Eleven with my roommates only an hour or two after it calmed down.

Q: What was transportation like?

A: There was always the threat of trees blowing over and blocking train tracks or roads, so most people tried to steer clear of transportation because it was so uncertain. We were all advised that it was dangerous to go outside in a typhoon anyway, so most people just stayed at home or a friend’s house until it was all over. Also, all air traffic into and out of Tokyo was completely stopped.

Q: What couldn’t you do because of the typhoon? How did this impact your plans?

A: You can’t do anything worthwhile outside of your own house during a typhoon. Going outside is a big risk, and you never know when public transportation will be canceled and you’ll be stranded in the middle of the city. 

So more or less, the safest bet is to not make any plans on the day of or the days following a huge typhoon like this one. Personally, I just dedicated these days to homework and chores, and I know that many of my friends did as well.

My housemates and I had a movie night, but we didn’t do anything that would take us out of the house. I also didn’t make plans for the day after because I figured that the trains would be down since that’s what happened during the last typhoon about a month ago. However, we got lucky and the trains were up and running pretty quickly. So you just have to assume that you’ll be stuck at home and hope that it clears up relatively easily.

—By Larkin Barnard-Bahn

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