Supertyphoon Halong  28 June - 16 July 2002


Supertyphoon Halong approaching Okinawa on 13 July 2002 at 0530 GMT.  Satellite image from  J T W C

Click on any of these images to see the full size version 

Selected tracking maps and satellite images from the Joint Typhoon Warning Centre  of Typhoon Halong tracking towards Okinawa.

    Warning 07     Warning 12     Warning 17       Warning 22       Warning 26      Warning 29     Warning 30    Warning 31

Selected radar images from the United States Air Force base - Kadena  of Typhoon Halong passing directly over Naha, Okinawa.   

 Radar Image timed 1744 local time
     Radar Image timed 1819 local time
Radar Image timed 2013 local time
Radar Image timed 2129 local time

Typhoon Halong developed while I was already in Japan intercepting Typhoon Chataan so it made perfect sense to chase Halong as well. Staying in Osaka at the airport I waited 2 days to see where Halong was heading before making a move towards intercepting it. The track had been pretty stable for days and when on the 13 July Halong was upgraded to a supertyphoon the choice was very clear,..Okinawa. Joint Typhoon Warning Centre were predicting a direct hit on Okinawa as a supertyphoon with winds gusting to 315kph. This would be sensational,..unless, of course you lived in Okinawa !  It was pretty exiting although having done this many times before I have learned not to get too exited until the show is actually happening as nature has a habit of sometimes dissapointing me. This time however, would not be one of those occasions ! Arriving in Okinawa to clear blue skies and not a sign of the impending chaos that was less than 24 hours away I couldnt help wondering if somehow it was all a dream and in fact nothing was going to happen. The city of Naha was bustling and even when renting a car no one even mentioned the typhoon. The hotel receptionist asked me what I was in Okinawa for and I told him casually "oh, there is a supertyphoon coming and it will be blowing 300kph here this time tomorrow night", well, he was pretty unphased and just said, "oh well, it happens all the time." Getting a feel for what sort of damage was likely to occur and what sort of danger I would be in driving around the city during the height of the typhoon I soon noticed the superior construction of everything from road signs to billboards to buildings in general. I doubt if a 747 could even knock one of those billboards down !  Okinawa is one of the most typhoon prone areas of the North Pacific, along with Guam and it certainly shows in the way things are built. On the morning of the 14th, as predicted the weather deteriorated and a bit after mid day the winds slowly rose to about 100kph even though no rain had started to fall yet. What amazed me it how much the Japanese appeared oblivious to what was happening,or perhaps, they had been through this so many times before it was all ho-hum. There was absolutely no change to daily life, the streets were clogged with cars, shops were open and even street sweepers were out keeping the streets immaculate in 100kph winds. We were still in for a direct hit although STY Halong had weakened a bit and had been downgraded from a supertyphoon and winds were expected to be about 200kph at landfall. That was still ok. The rains started at about 4 pm although the wind didnt get much over 100kph. I thought the storm was doing to dissapoint me. At 7 30 pm, just before dark something amazing happened, I was half asleep in the car on the wharf when I was woken by bright sunlight, hell, it was the eye, directly above me. I fell out of the car and pointed the camera skywards capturing the evidence on film. It didnt last long, about 30 seconds. An hour passed, no rain, no wind, just overcast sky. What the hell was going on. I rushed back to the hotel for a satellite and radar update. Radar and satellite images along with e mails from fellow storm chasers in the United States and the Phillipines all pointed to the fact that "all hell was about to break loose" Yeah right, 10 pm, still nothing but a bit of light rain...again I fell asleep in my 12th floor hotel room. Again I was rudely woken, I thought I was dreaming and that the building was swaying and a jet engine was going outside the window. The building sure was swaying and  the view outside the window was incredible, it was beautiful. Horizontal torrential rain was funneling sideways between the buildings at terrific speed and I couldnt even see the ground,the rain was so heavy, it was almost like when you are in a plane flying through the clouds except I was in a high rise building ! I rushed out to go out into the mayhem but not before remembering the most important safety rule, never use the lift !,  if the power fails then I have just come to the other side of the world to sit, trapped in a lift, while the greatest show on earth is going on outside. That would not be a good look. I rushed out into the maelstrom of rain and wind to find incredibly, that the number of cars on the street STILL had not diminished much despite 200kph winds and almost zero visibility, the street sweepers has stopped but a lot of shops were still open. If this was the United States the whole place would be deserted, evacuated and under curfew. It is funny really, this storm was the same strength as Hurricane Georges in the USA 3 years ago but somehow there wasn't the same sense of fear or danger that I felt while driving around the totally deserted and dark streets of Gulfport, Mississippi. It wasnt like I was out in conditions so bad that any sane person would not be venturing out, people were everywhere, and it somehow didnt seem at all dangerous although the level of danger was exactly the same, it was a strange feeling really. By about 1 am the next morning the worst of Halong was over and it was time once again to try and dry out all my wet equipment ready for the next one.....

Geoff Mackley 14 July 2002.

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