Typhoon Lionrock is projected to make landfall in Japan Tuesday and is likely to strike the northern Tohoku region, the area devastated by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. It would be the first tropical cyclone to make landfall in the region since records began in 1951, broadcaster TBS said.
Historic heavy rains are expected in the region, with more rain forecast to fall in 24 hours than in a typical month of August, Tsumoru Matsumoto, the Japan Meteorological Agency’s chief forecaster, said in a televised press conference. Citizens were advised to be wary of “violent” winds and high waves near coastal areas, and the Cabinet office warned of the dangers of landslides and flooding from rivers bursting their banks.
Lionrock, which has taken a boomerang-like route away from Japan and back again, has weakened somewhat to a “strong” typhoon, but is expected to maintain much of its current intensity when it makes landfall late Tuesday. The storm prompted Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to cut short a trip to Kenya, where he had been leading a conference on African development, Kyodo News said. Abe is set to return to Tokyo’s Haneda airport shortly before midnight Monday.
The center of the typhoon was about 550 kilometers (340 miles) south of Tokyo as of 3 p.m. local time and heading northeast, the weather agency said. The storm has maximum sustained winds of 144 kilometers per hour (89 mph) and a maximum gust speed of 216 kilometers per hour, making it the equivalent of a category 1 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale.
Lionrock is set to bring up to 350 millimeters of rain to the Tohoku region over the 24 hours to 6 p.m. on Tuesday, with 200 millimeters expected in the Kanto region, which includes Tokyo. The heaviest rain is expected in Tokyo around noon local time tomorrow, the JMA said.
Tokyo Electric Power Co., the operator of the devastated Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant, was bracing for Lionrock’s arrival, public broadcaster NHK reported. Workers secured power cables and hoses, and the company canceled work in some parts of the plant tomorrow. The center of the storm will be about 100 kilometers east of the plant as of 3 p.m. tomorrow, the JMA said.
Lionrock is the 10th typhoon of the season, and is set to be the fourth to make landfall in Japan this year (the annual average is 2.7). Last week, Typhoon Mindulle became the first storm to make landfall near Tokyo in 11 years, affecting more than 330 domestic flights and over 70,000 passengers.
–With assistance from James Mayger and Emi Nobuhiro.
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