Typhoon Roke Moves Away From Japan on Path Toward Kuril Islands

Bloomberg Business Week
September 21, 2011

Sept. 21 (Bloomberg) — Typhoon Roke moved back over the Pacific on a path to the Kuril Islands after causing flooding, transportation disruptions and at least three deaths in Japan.

Roke was just off Japan’s northeast coast at about noon New York time with winds of about 130 kilometers (80 miles) per hour, according to the Japanese Meteorological Agency’s website. The storm brought 40-kph winds to the area around the nuclear power plant in Fukushima stricken by an earthquake and tsunami earlier this year, said Jeff Masters, co-founder of Weather Underground Inc. in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Roke is moving northeast at about 68 kph, according to the Japanese agency.

“The thing is just rocketing,” said Jim Andrews, senior meteorologist at AccuWeather Inc. in State College, Pennsylvania. “At that speed it doesn’t take it long to leave an area the size of Japan.”

Roke will weaken further as it moves into the Pacific and will become a powerful oceanic storm that may eventually bring rains to British Columbia and the U.S. Pacific Northwest next week, Andrews said.

While the Japanese agency still has Roke classified as a typhoon, the equivalent to a hurricane in the Atlantic, the U.S. Navy Joint Typhoon Warning Center downgraded it to a tropical storm and said it had begun to change into a non-tropical system.

Flood Warnings

Japan’s weather agency issued warnings for landslides and flooding throughout the main island of Honshu, with high waves in coastal areas. Public broadcaster NHK showed footage of fallen trees, damaged buildings and flooding as rainfall exceeded 80 millimeters (3.1 inches) per hour.

Roke, which made landfall in Japan earlier today, came three weeks after Typhoon Talas killed 67 people, the nation’s deadliest storm in seven years.

One person died in Nagoya after falling from the third floor of a building in strong winds, Japan’s Fire and Disaster Management Agency said in a statement. One man died in Saga prefecture as he was checking the mooring on a fishing boat, while another drowned in a swollen river in Ehime prefecture, the agency said. Kyodo News Agency reported 6 people died.

Tokyo Electric Power Co., Japan’s largest utility, whose Fukushima nuclear plant was crippled by the earthquake and tsunami in March, said power was cut to 19,610 homes. Chubu Electric Power Co. said 7,950 homes were without power and Kansai Electric Power Co., which serves the industrial region around Osaka, said 8,390 homes were without electricity.

Fukushima Operations

“Several works and operations at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi were affected due to wind and heavy rain brought by the typhoon,” Takeo Iwamoto, a spokesman at the utility, said by telephone today. “We halted sea-water sampling, sea-water treatment and works to build water shields.”

As much as 400 millimeters of rain fell in parts of the country today, according to the weather agency.

Japan Airlines Co. canceled 112 domestic flights, the carrier said in a faxed statement. All Nippon Airways Co. said it canceled 116 domestic flights and two international flights while Skymark Airlines Inc., Japan’s biggest discount carrier, said it had 43 cancellations.

Japan is regularly hit by cyclones during the Northern Nemisphere’s summer. Talas, which dumped as much as 1.8 meters of rain in central Japan earlier this month, was the deadliest storm since 2004, when Typhoon Tokage left 95 people dead.

–With assistance from Chisaki Watanabe, Chris Cooper, Tsuyoshi Inajima and Makoto Miyazaki in Tokyo and Lars Paulsson in London. Editors: Charlotte Porter, David Marino

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