Almost all countries with coastlines are plagued by typhoons. This tropical cyclone is the same type of storm as a hurricane (in the Atlantic) or cyclone (in the Indian Ocean). Typhoons are massive accumulations of wind and rain rotating around a central low-pressure zone that develop over large bodies of water, more likely oceans. A tropical storm becomes a typhoon when its winds reach 74 miles per hour.
Typhoons form in the Western North Pacific and tend to affect China, Japan, and the Phillipines. At the extreme, typhoon wind speeds can reach up to 150 miles an hour, and gusts can reach 300 mph. Along with these strong winds come torrential rains and a devastating storm surge that can reach 20 feet above normal water levels. These tropical storms tend to dissipate when they can no longer get their energy from the warm water. When it moves over land, its energy source quickly disappears, and the storm begins to lose its power.
Unlike tornadoes, typhoons and hurricanes do not form suddenly. It takes several days before a minor storm becomes a major typhoon. Normally starting as a normal thunderstorm, the right conditions can build them into intense weather disturbances. Thanks to modern satellites and communication systems, it is easy to spot and track typhoons. Weather bureaus can, therefore, inform people well before a typhoon event that the danger is approaching.
Most countries subject to frequent tycoons have established safety procedures and plans to help people prepare and prevent injuries and property damage. By the time a typhoon is close, local authorities will already have issued warnings, anywhere from 24-48 hours before the predicted landfall. People in the area should follow these tips to stay safe:
* Store enough fresh drinking water and food for several days. The typhoon’s destructive power may make it impossible to return home right away or to get to groceries or markets. Further, the storm may destroy local water delivery systems.
* If you are caught outdoors during the storm, seek high ground and find some type of durable shelter.
* If your home is not strong enough to withstand powerful wind gusts and rapid flooding, seek cover at a designated evacuation center or shelter. Don’t risk your life by staying in a poorly-constructed building.
* If you do stay home, turn off and unplug electric appliances and equipment to avoid possible electrical shorts and fires. Frequently, your local utility will cut off power to prevent additional emergencies.
* Make sure you have adequate protective rain gear to keep warm and dry in case you need to flee the area.
* If you are indoors during the storm, stay there. Going outside may expose you to fallen power lines or flying debris that is extremely dangerous.
* Make sure you have a battery-powered radio to monitor the situation through local news services whether the community’s power is on or off.
Man hasn’t learned how to prevent typhoons, but we can anticipate their direction and power soon enough to find safety and survive. Being well-prepared will spare you the emotional stress of panic and avoid making possibly deadly mistakes. Fear and panic are responsible for many lost lives, and that is one condition you can control.