Supertyphoon Chataan  28 June - 12 July 2002

Supertyphoon Chataan approaching Southern Japan on
08 July 2002.  Satellite image from NOAA

Huge storm surge waves pound the shoreline near Kushimoto, Southern Japan, during Typhoon Chataan on 10 July.

This satellite image from  NOAA  shows the much weakened Typhoon Chataan tracking along the coast of Southern Japan, the "X" on the image marks the location of Kushimoto, where the above photos were taken.

Selected tracking maps from the Joint Typhoon Warning Centre  of Supertyphoon Chataan
tracking toward Japan
Warning 48
Warning 49

Typhoon Chataan first developed when I was in Mexico, half a world away. After it tore through Micronesia and Guam, killing dozens of people and destroying 1500 homes, I decided after my return to New Zealand to try and intercept it as it approached Japan. As the typhoon tracked north of Guam it intensified into a supertyphoon with winds gusting to 298kph. It didn't, however, stay that way for long and weakened considerably as it approached the Japanese coastline. I decided that it was still worth chasing as the storm surge associated with the typhoon would be considerable. Japan must be one of the most difficult countries in the world to operate, firstly because of the language barrier, and secondly is that the Japanese mobile phone network and landline telephone network is incompatable with the rest of the world. The problems started within minutes of my arrival when I tried to rent a four wheel drive vehicle, after 2 hours of trying I settled with a van, which actually turned out to be quite useful for filming out of in the rain. Next problem was just trying to get to the coast. A friend of mine in Japan said that it should take 3 hours, took all night !, the road was totally congested and every traffic light in Japan was there on that road, thousands of them. I thought there was a motorway..(there was, I couldnt find it, on the way back I did find it and the same distance took about 1 hr on a sparsely occupied super highway..I think the reason it was sparsely occupied was the sky high toll charges. ) Trying to access the internet and the Joint Typhoon Warning Centre pages, essential for tracking the storm was impossible so I had to use the satellite phone. Even in a mega expensive 50th floor hotel room, I still had to use the satellite phone for internet access, god knows what the hotel staff thought when I told them I had to have a south facing hotel room and settled on the right room after checking several with a compass !, I expected the FBI to raid my room at any minute, thinking I was a terrorist.

Once on the coast I was amazed just how big the storm surge was, the waves were monstorous and some of the biggest I have ever seen, and I spent the whole day filming them along the entire coastline. In places where the sea funneled into a bay the waves were probably about 10 - 15 metres high, or as high as a 4 story building and some hit the rocks wich such force that foam and water went maybe 100 feet into the air. Typhoon Chataan passed along the coast about 100km offshore and eventually made landfall near Tokyo as a tropical storm causing some flooding and damage.

Geoff Mackley 12 July 2002.

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