ATUSGI, Japan (NNS) -- Typhoons, the western pacific equivalent to hurricanes in the Atlantic, are a normalcy in Japan, with the peak of the season hosting the most powerful storms between August and September.
Japan’s eastern coast was hit by Typhoon Faxai in the early hours of Monday, Sept. 9th. The Kanto Plain suffered the highest intensity with winds comparable to a Category-1 hurricane and more than 100,000 evacuation advisories issued due to high winds and flooding. Naval Air Facility (NAF) Atsugi came through safely with little damage to its community.
Although this was not the most powerful storm NAF Atsugi has experienced over the last decade, it maintained its intensity long enough to cause over $1.7 million dollars in damage. Preparation mitigated much of the potentially greater damage, and without it, more damage could have adversely affected the base’s mission, operations and services.
“The fortunate thing about a typhoon is we can see it coming,” said Dr. Greg Wise, Emergency Management Officer. “Communication between the Joint Typhoon Warning Center, the 374th Operational Weather Squadron (OWS) in Yokota, and NAF Atsugi was constant, consistent and dependable. This allowed us four days to observe weather patterns, evaluate options and initiate plans. Prior to the storm arriving, the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) activated and became the primary Command and Control function for the installation. Constant communication took place between the EOC, Security, Public Works and the 374th OWS. Once TCCOR 1 Emergency was set, all personnel were restricted and missions temporarily suspended.”
The system used by the military in preparation for typhoons is the Tropical Cyclone (Typhoon) Conditions of Readiness (TCCOR). TCCOR is scaled from 5, advising military members 96 hours out to make preparations by stocking up on food, medical and emergency supplies, to Level 1 with the arrival of the typhoon, prohibiting outside activity. Military members and their families were kept updated about base TCCOR settings via coordinated social media warnings, AFN radio and television advisories.
While the EOC was preparing from their operating room, the Public Works Department (PWD) was preparing structures of NAF Atsugi for the approaching storm.
“PWD does a great deal of preparation before typhoons,” said Lt. Maxwell Perrin, Assistant Public Works Officer. “Our Self-Help Seabees distribute a limited number of sand bags to building managers responsible for facilities susceptible to flooding. They also start-up and service chainsaws and other tools to ensure they will be fully operational during recovery efforts. Throughout the PWD, we inspect all job sites to ensure all materials, tools, equipment and scaffolding are secured.”
As important as it is to prepare beforehand to mitigate damages, there is always a recovery period after a typhoon to return the base back to its normal material condition. This falls under the jurisdiction of the PWD as well.
“We prepare tools and equipment that could be need during recovery, including generators, pumps and heavy vehicles,” said Perrin. “PWD is responsible for operating school buses and all shuttle services. We work closely with NAF Atsugi leadership to determine if any transportation services should be rescheduled or canceled. Among these actions and more, we establish a watch bill of military, civilian and Master Labor Contractors personnel to ensure facility services, including water and waste water treatment, and steam and electrical distribution continue through the typhoon and that the right people are ready to begin damage assessment and recovery operations the moment TCCOR 1-Recovery is declared.”
The damages from Typhoon Faxai, estimated to a little over $1.7 million, is predominantly a result of roof damage at Shirley Lanham Elementary School (SLES), and the subsequent internal water damage to two classrooms.
“With the help of our Seabees, SLES teachers and staff moved everything from the impacted rooms to another building, minimizing disruption to the students,” said Perrin. “Our hard-working shops team has installed tarps on the roof to prevent further water damage until we award a contract to replace the roof.”
Other damage to base facilities, comparatively minor, ranged in impact, from roof leaks and broken windows to the total destruction of bicycle shelters. Approximately 30 trees fell or had sizeable limbs break off. The trees that fell range in diameter from 6 to 18 inches, and either snapped or failed at the roots due to the highly-saturated soil. Countless small branches fell from trees all over the installation. The PWD is still in the process of removing the downed trees, starting with those that pose a safety risk and/or are in high traffic areas.
“A big shout out and many thanks go to the Seabees from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion FOUR Detail Atsugi who are deployed here from Port Hueneme, California,” said Perrin. “These 20 Seabees joined forces with those in our PWD, and were truly crucial in the immediate recovery efforts that allowed NAFA to resume normal operations within mere hours after the typhoon passing.”
For more news from Naval Air Facility Atsugi, visit www.navy.mil/local/atsugi/.