Typhoon Faxai: Strongest Typhoon to Impact Greater Tokyo in Fifteen Years

Power outages in Chiba Prefecture looked set to continue into the coming weeks as the region continues to recover from Typhoon Faxai. It was one of the strongest landfalling typhoons on record in the seven prefectures of the Kanto region surrounding Tokyo and the strongest to impact the Greater Tokyo area since Typhoon Ma-on in 2004.

Two Landfalls as Faxai Travels Across Tokyo Bay

Typhoon Faxai made a brief landfall over the Miura Peninsula, Kanagawa Prefecture in the Kanto region of Japan, just 35 miles (57 kilometers) south-southwest of Tokyo early morning local time on Monday, September 9. The center of the typhoon then tracked northeast across Tokyo Bay and made a second landfall over the city of Chiba (pop. ~979,000), Chiba Prefecture, Japan, 20 miles (32 kilometers) east of Tokyo.

According to the Japan Meteorological Agency, Faxai had maximum sustained wind speeds of 102 to 106 miles per hour (165 to 170 kilometers per hour) at its landfalls, equivalent to a Category 2 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.

At landfall, hurricane-force winds impacted most of the Greater Tokyo area including the cities of Chiba, Tokyo and Yokohama. Faxai underwent an eyewall replacement cycle immediately prior to landfall, which likely resulted in wind speeds in the Greater Tokyo area that were not as intense as feared; however, a broader area of the seven-prefecture Kanto Region likely experienced the system’s strongest winds as a result of a broadening of the wind field.

Mixed Damage Picture

According to a preliminary impact assessment report issued on Thursday, September 12 by Japan’s Fire and Disaster Management Agency (FDMA), over 9,000 buildings have been damaged or flooded across eight prefectures. The report shows that the worst-affected prefectures are Chiba and Tokyo, where more than 8,000 and 1,000 structures were damaged, destroyed, or flooded, respectively. Even this long after the storm made landfall, the full extent and severity of the property damage is still emerging as damage assessments continue.

Trees felled outside the Tokyo Institute of Technology after Typhoon Faxai. Image credit: Wikimedia/StckW

Power outages have been significant and prolonged. Two large power transmitters were downed near Chiba, leading to widespread power outages across the Greater Tokyo area. In total, more than 934,000 were without power for several hours. Continued heavy rain in the region and the threat of mudslides made power restoration more difficult. Media reports questioned the utility company Tepco and its investment in transmission lines.

Ports also faced damage and disruption from Faxai as dozens of cargo containers at Yokohama Bay were scattered with many sustaining damages, though many are believed to be empty of contents. A cargo ship collided with the Minami-Honmoku Hama Bridge while anchored at Yokohama Port, causing damage to the vessel and the bridge. A chemical tanker came into contact with a pier in Yokahama; the vessel sustained damage and spilled much of its contents. Collisions and accidents at other ports were widespread – a crane carrier aboard a floating dock hit a pier in Yokosuka Port, with multiple other reports of collisions between cargo ships and fishing vessels in Kawasaki Port, many of which have reported considerable damage.

Japan hosts the Rugby World Cup with the opening match in Tokyo today – Friday, September 20, but organizers reported minimal disruption, although incoming teams reported flight delays.

James Cosgrove

Based in London, James works within Model Development as a member of the RMS Event Response team, supporting real-time Event Response operations and assisting on various Event Response projects. James holds a bachelor’s degree in Physical Geography and Geology from the University of Southampton and a master’s degree in Applied Meteorology from the University of Reading.