Recorded as a Catagory 5, super Typhoon Tip hit Honshu, the largest island of Japan, on October 19, 1979. Thirteen Marines were killed, and 68 injured, at their base training camp, near Mt. Fuji, near Tokyo. Forty two deaths occured from flooding, and another 44 from shipwrecks.
We lived there at that time. My husband’s helicopter unit, at Camp Zama, was called into action to MedEvac the injured Marines to the hospitals. Several of these servicemen were injured, also.
In our city of Sagamihara, right outside Tokyo, we’d been getting weather updates for days. A sign was posted at the entrance/exit of the base housing area. Cat 1, Cat 2, Cat 3…no one knew at this point, that they would eventually catagorize Typhoon Tip as a Cat 5, the strongest measurement available at the time.
Typhoon Tip has been officially classified in history, as the most powerful typhoon ever recorded. With winds of 190 mph plus, at it’s peak, and a diameter of 1,380 miles, it was almost half the size of the whole United States.
In the few days before it struck our city, the weather was calm, but a bit muggy. It soon became hazy with a fine mist in the air. We would get short bursts of rain, in squalls, but that did not stop us and our neighbors from our regular habit of cooking outside on the grill. The men rigged up plastic tarps, strung from the tree branches, as a make-do awning over the grills, so the rain would not put out the fire. We did manage to get the food cooked in time.
The next morning, the base was hunkered down for what was to come. I’d never been in a typhoon, or hurricane before, so was excited and anxious as to what would happen. As the torrential rains began to fall, our neighbor’s car stalled out in the middle of the street. She asked if my husband could help. So, he went out in the rain and helped push the car up into the driveway.
We stayed inside the house the whole time, as there wasn’t anywhere else to go…there were no evacuation plans. Our girls were very young, and they still needed entertaining, and I did do some reading, as I sat at the table. We all watched, as the rain was windblown sideways, along with items from outside that had not been tied down. At one point the electricity went out, leaving the house in semi-darkness, so I lit candles. This lasted for hours.
By late afternoon, the roaring sound of the wind suddenly stopped, and it became clear, with no rain. The sun shone for a little while. Everyone came out of their houses, to see if there was damage. Some speculated that we were in the eye of the storm. We knew we had been, when the wind and rain begain again, from the opposite direction.
When it was all over, we went out to see what damage was done. The only big damage we could find, was several huge trees had been uprooted in the back yard. I know we were lucky that none fell on the house.
That was my experience of a typhoon. I know it had been a bit downgraded from a Catagory 5, to around a 4, by the time it hit us, and with winds of 130 mph, it was till very strong. For some reason, though, I was not scared. After being in the F-5 tornado, in my hometown, nine years before, the Cat 5 Typhoon was more of an exciting event to me.
It will, however, be an experience I will never forget.
For more on the Super Typhoon Tip you can find it here. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Typhoon_Tip