Rare ‘heavy rain emergency’ issued in Japan as menacing Typhoon Hagibis nears landfall

Oct. 12 (UPI) — As life-threatening impacts were already unfolding, Typhoon Hagibis made landfall in Japan just before 7 p.m. Saturday.

Hagibis moved ashore near Izu Peninsula in Shizuoka prefecture packing winds equal to a powerful Category 2 hurricane in the Atlantic or East Pacific oceans.

The powerful typhoon will unleash life-threatening impacts ranging from flash flooding to mudslides, damaging winds and isolated tornadoes through Saturday night.

Some locations may be without power for an extended period during and following the storm.

A “heavy rain emergency” is in effect for central and eastern portions of Japan, which is the highest level on the Japan Meteorological Agency’s five-tier scale, according to Japanese broadcaster NHK. The emergency means that landslides and flooding are imminent.

A wind gust of 100 mph was observed at Kozushima Airport on Saturday, which is located on a small island southwest of Tokyo.

Tokyo’s Haneda Airport recorded wind gusts of 96 mph around 9 p.m. on Saturday.

Wind gusts can reach an AccuWeather Local StormMax of 100 mph along the immediate coast.

Video on social media showed a possible tornado sweeping through Chiba Prefecture during the typhoon’s fury.

Rivers were beginning to overflow in Shizuoka prefecture, with many roads underwater, according to NHK. One person was pulled to safety after being swept up by floodwaters, while another person remains missing.

Adding insult to injury was a magnitude-5.3 earthquake that shook the region on Saturday evening, according to the United States Geological Survey. The temblor struck offshore about 34 miles south-southeast of Katsuura, Japan. Light shaking was reported in Tokyo and surrounding areas amid the rain and wind from Hagibis.

Hagibis is forecast to track along the coastal areas of Chubu and Kanto this weekend. While the interaction with land will help to speed up the weakening process, heavy rain and gusty winds can still be a threat to the area.

“One of the big issues with Hagibis will be the heavy rain coming in a short period of time along and to the north of the storm’s path,” AccuWeather senior meteorologist Dave Houk said.

Tokyo is once again in the area that may have some of the most significant impacts from the storm with Hagibis forecast to pass within 50 miles of the city. The worst of the wind and rain is expected into Saturday night.

Total rainfall of 6 inches to 12 inches will be common across Greater Tokyo with an AccuWeather Local StormMax of 20 inches resulting in a high risk for flooding and travel disruptions.

The shaking from the earthquake, in addition to the heavy, tropical rainfall which could already make the ground unstable, could increase the chances of mudslides across Japan.

By Sunday, the threat of high winds and heavy rain will shift to Hokkaido as the storm picks up speed on its northeasterly track. Conditions across mainland Japan will be improving.

Hagibis is expected to transition into a non-tropical system during the beginning of next week as it races away from area. A cold front passing over the region may bring some showers and periods of rain during the first half of the week before drier conditions move in as recovery efforts ramp up.

Ahead of the typhoon, rail operators and airlines issued cancellation notices for scheduled departures this weekend, according to the Japan Times.

Japanese broadcaster NHK reported that All Nippon Airways was cancelling all domestic flights on Saturday to and from Haneda and Narita airports in the Tokyo area, while Japan Airlines was cancelling nearly all of its flights.

East Japan Railway Co. announced it will suspend many trains on Saturday, including impacts to bullet train service. Central Japan Railway Co. and West Japan Railway Co. have also announced cancellations.

On Friday, Toyota announced that operations at three of its factories in the prefectures of Fukuoka, Mie and Gifu would be suspended due to the typhoon.

Supermarket chain Ito Yokado will close 124 stores on Saturday. Shinjuku, Ginza and Ebisu stores in Tokyo will also be closed on Saturday.

Tokyo Disneyland, Tokyo DisneySea and Universal Studios Japan will all be closed on Saturday as well.

Aside from the risks to lives and property, Hagibis is expected has affected several sporting events across Japan.

Two Rugby World Cup matches that were scheduled for Saturday have been canceled and will be recorded as scoreless draws, according to BBC News.

The Japanese Grand Prix is also set to take place on Sunday afternoon, local time at Suzuka International Racing Course and Saturday’s qualifying has been postponed until Sunday morning due to the adverse weather.

Earlier on its journey through the West Pacific, Hagibis battered Guam and the northern Mariana Islands from Monday into Tuesday.

Before reaching Guam, Hagibis went through a period of phenomenal strengthening as the storm went from a tropical depression with sustained winds of 30 mph on Saturday to a super typhoon producing winds of 150 mph only 48 hours later.

During this period of rapid intensification, Hagibis became the third super typhoon of the season and reached a peak strength of 160 mph, tying with Wutip from February as the most power tropical cyclone in the West Pacific basin this year.

Hurricane Dorian currently holds the distinction of strongest tropical cyclone on the planet this year with sustained winds of 185 mph.

The super typhoon brought rainfall of 3 inches 6 inches to Guam with heavier rainfall reported in Rota and Saipan as the storm tracked north of the islands. Winds over 150 mph were reported in Anatahan as the storm tracked directly over the uninhabited island.