Typhoon Hagibis barreled strength into Japan over the weekend, and while it did bring windows of idyllic surf to a few prized few nooks and crannies, the overall impact of the storm was devastating.
Reports coming out of Japan indicate that more than 72 people have died as a result of the storm. Catastrophic flooding around Tokyo could push that number even higher. Rainfall totals in some areas exceeded 35 inches over the course of 24 hours.
The deluge has caused rivers and streams to jump their banks and erode levees, flooding neighborhoods and destroying homes and buildings. Residents have been trapped by the rising water and mudflow.
Originally a Category 5 super typhoon in the Pacific, the storm made landfall at approximately 7 p.m. local time on Saturday on the Izu Peninsula, 80 miles southwest of Tokyo. Wind gust nearing 100 mph were recorded at the Haneda Airport near downtown Tokyo.
Typhoon Hagibis was downgraded to a Category 2 storm as it smashed Honshu. Nagano, the site of the 1998 Winter Olympics, saw the Chikuma River burst its banks and flood surrounding areas. Heavy rains also fell in the Fukushima Prefecture, elevating fears of radioactive contamination as a result of the 2011 nuclear accident. In total, more than 20 rivers in central and northeastern Japan have reportedly flooded over 1,000 homes.
This is the most powerful typhoon to hit Japan since a storm in 1958 killed hundreds of people. The monetary expense of the storm is already believed to be in the billions of dollars. Considering that over the last 70 years, three of the ten most costly Japanese typhoons have occurred in the past two years, it would be safe to say that climate change is at least partially to blame for these superstorms.
As surfers we celebrate purple blobs marching across our oceans, but as these storms grow in both frequency and intensity, it’s getting harder and harder to have a clear conscience when so many lives are being lost and radically displaced.
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