Shuts Down Japan
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 12, 2019 --
Super-Typhoon Hagibis made landfall on the islands in the overnight Friday U.S. hours.
The storm is ferocious or, as the Japan Meteorological Service (JMS) said, it displays "a level of intensity observed only once every few decades." It is being compared to a 1958 storm that killed more than 1,200 people.
Thankfully, the death toll hasn't reached anywhere near that level. In fact, the confirmed fatality toll remains in the single digits, although dozens are missing. Unfortunately, however, the storm is still raging just before noon US Eastern time and just after midnight Sunday morning Japan time.
How intense has it been? Wind gusts of 90+ miles per hour have been clocked in central Tokyo. More than 40 inches of rain have fallen in Hakone, a spa town about 50 miles from Tokyo. Swollen rivers have overtopped their banks and swept away vehicles. Many vehicles--including largish trucks--have been overturned by wind, some buildings have been destroyed, houses have collapsed and there is debris and damage everywhere. Several tornadoes have been reported. Nine prefectures remain under typhoon warning although conditions have eased in the areas around Tokyo. One of the few bits of good news: The storm is moving quickly and may blow out to sea in a few hours.
Transportation, ground and air, has largely come to a standstill and will be heavily disrupted at least through Sunday evening local time. Tokyo's two primary airports, Narita and Haneda, are functionally closed. Many other key Japanese airports are closed or have had no flights in many hours.
Exact numbers are hard to categorize because of the time difference. At least 1,000 flights were dumped in preparation for the storm. At least 700 more are cancelled in the next 24 hours. That means Japan's leading carriers--ANA, Japan Airlines, Skymark, Peach Aviation--are basically grounded. U.S. and other foreign carriers serving Tokyo and Osaka (KIX) have cancelled service until at least tomorrow U.S. time.
For Sunday (Japan time) at Narita, ANA, JAL and Jetstar Japan have already announced all domestic flights are cancelled. Many international flights also won't operate. At Haneda, most flights are cancelled until 2pm Sunday Japan time.
On the ground, most of the nation's high-speed rail and commuter service has been suspended. So too virtually all of the Metro services in the major cities. I saw a shocking scene at Tokyo's Shinjuku station: It was completely empty. There was no damage, but to see a bustling, chaotic station such as Shinjuku devoid of life was truly amazing. If you've used Shinjuku--a major connector for ground service to Narita as well as Tokyo's commuter and long-haul trains--you know how eerie that is.
As far as I can tell, most longer-haul rail services--JR East as well as the private lines--won't resume service until after facility inspections. That remains many hours away. I don't expect anything like normal rail service to resume nationwide until Monday morning.
Ironically, for good and bad, this is a holiday weekend in Japan. Good because domestic travel patterns were lighter than normal. Bad because there were more overseas visitors drawn by two major sporting events: The World Rugby Championships and a major Formula 1 race.
Finally, an odd observation. There has been no purple rain in Japan, but social media is full of amazing photos and video of the skies turning purple before the typhoon hit.
UPDATE: OCTOBER 14, 2019, 10PM ET
The death toll as a result of Typhoon Hagibis has reached 58, according to Japanese broadcaster NHK. Several dozen more people are still missing. The storm dropped as much as 40 percent of the annual average rainfall in many areas of the country.