Powerful Typhoon Haishen bears down on southern Japan

Sept. 4 (UPI) — Typhoon Haishen, the season’s first super typhoon, bore down on Japan and South Korea on Saturday.

Haishen became the first super typhoon of the season in the western Pacific Ocean late this past week, according to the Joint Typhoon Warning Center. Despite losing some wind intensity and no longer holding that status, Haishen remains a powerful and dangerous typhoon as it nears land.

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The Korean Peninsula is bracing for its third significant typhoon strike within a week’s time following Maysak and Typhoon Bavi, which made landfall in North Korea on Aug. 27. Residents still recovering from those two powerful storms will have little time to prepare for Haishen.

As of Saturday night, typhoon warnings were in place across the Ryukyu Islands and southwestern Kyushu as Haishen began to move over the region.

Minamidaitojima, a small island in southern Japan, spent much of Saturday and Saturday night in the eye wall of Haishen and reported a wind gust of 115 mph.

As of Saturday evening, local time, thousands of residents are without power across mainland Japan ahead of the arrival of the main impacts from Haishen.

On Thursday, Japanese officials told residents to brace for impacts from the storm, urging many to evacuate their homes, reported the Japan Times.

“People in affected areas should not hesitate to evacuate their homes and find shelter, even though they may be worried about becoming infected with the new coronavirus,” the official said.

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Ahead of the arrival of Typhoon Haishen, the search and rescue mission for missing sailors in the East China Sea has been temporarily suspended. Dozens of sailors have been missing since the middle of last week after a cargo ship carrying cattle capsized in the rough surf from Typhoon Maysak.

Tracking in an area of light wind shear and very warm ocean waters, Haishen surpassed Maysak as the strongest storm in the West Pacific so far this season. The former super typhoon was packing 10-minute sustained winds of 115 mph as of Saturday afternoon. This is equivalent to a Category 4 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Wind Scale.

“Haishen could follow right behind Maysak and aim for southern Japan and the Korean Peninsula this weekend, bringing a second dose of tropical impacts,” explained AccuWeather lead international meteorologist Jason Nicholls.

“This has the potential to be particularly devastating for some parts of southern Japan and South Korea as two strong typhoons, both the equivalent of major hurricanes in the Atlantic, could strike in almost the same spot in less than a week,” AccuWeather meteorologist Jake Sojda warned.

“Any building or infrastructure that is weakened or sustained minor damage from Maysak could then be taken out by Haishen. There simply will not be enough time to repair and reinforce things,” Sojda added.

Areas expected to be at the greatest risk from Haishen will be from the northern Ryukyu Islands and southern Kyushu in Japan into southern and eastern South Korea.

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On Thursday, Japanese officials told residents to brace for impacts from the storm, urging many to evacuate their homes, reported the Japan Times.

“People in affected areas should not hesitate to evacuate their homes and find shelter, even though they may be worried about becoming infected with the new coronavirus,” the official said.

These areas could go through devastating impacts in terms of widespread power outages, flooding, mudslides and extensive wind damage.

Because of these anticipated impacts, Haishen is expected to be a 4 on the AccuWeather RealImpact Scale for Tropical Cyclones in Japan and a 4 in South Korea. The RealImpact Scale is a six-point scale with ratings of less-than-1 and 1 to 5.

In comparison to the Saffir-Simpson Wind Scale, which has been used by meteorologists for decades and classifies storms by wind speed only, the AccuWeather RealImpact Scale is based on a broad range of important factors. The scale covers not only wind speed, but also flooding rain, storm surge and economic damage and loss. This communicates a more comprehensive representation of the potential impact of a storm to lives and livelihoods.

Meteorologist Robert Speta, a Western Pacific weather expert, stated that Typhoon Haishen could rival Hurricane Laura, a storm that made landfall along the Louisiana coast in August, as the strongest storm on the planet in 2020.

Haishen is expected to be the equivalent strength to that of a Category 4 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Wind Scale while crossing southern Japan and a Category 3 equivalent typhoon when making landfall in South Korea. Wind gusts in excess of 100 mph are expected in both of these areas.

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An AccuWeather Local StormMax wind gust of 150 mph is possible and most likely across the northern Ryukyu Islands or the southern coast of Kyushu, dependent on the final track of Haishen.

In addition to becoming the strongest typhoon so far this year, Haishen is forecast to become the fifth named tropical system to make landfall in South Korea in 2020. Should this happen, the five landfalls would break the record number of landfalls in the country in a single year.

According to Nicholls, Haishen would also be the fourth tropical system to impact the Korean Peninsula in the past 30 days.

Widespread heavy rain will also fall across southern Japan, the Korean Peninsula and northeastern China. Rainfall from Haishen, in addition to the recent heavy rain from Maysak, could lead to significant and widespread flooding.

Many areas along the path of the storm are expected to receive 4 inches to 8 inches of rain. An AccuWeather Local StormMax of 16 inches is possible across southern Japan.

Widespread flooding across North Korea and China could lead to significant agricultural impacts and crop loss.

North Korea is a country that relies heavily on agriculture, so the threat for widespread flooding may put a strain on the country’s food supply.

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