Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Wipha On The Storm

Quick: How many category 4 or better hurricanes have there been this year?

If you answered "two", Dean and Felix, well, you're wrong. By quite a substantial margin.

All told, there have already been twelve storms with wind speeds that qualify for category 4 or 5 status. Ah, but not all have been hurricanes! And number thirteen is bearing down on the Chinese coastline near Shanghai as you read this:
East China, including the commercial hub of Shanghai, is relocating people, closing schools and canceling festivities to prepare for what may be the most destructive typhoon in a decade, which is likely to make landfall early on Wednesday.

At 1:00 p.m., Wipha's center was about 400 kilometers southeast of Taizhou, a coastal city in eastern Zhejiang, and was moving northwestward at 20 km per hour, according to the Zhejiang Provincial Meteorological Station.

Wipha was likely to make landfall between the Yuhuan County of Taizhou and Cangnan County, of Wenzhou city in southeastern Zhejiang, before Wednesday morning, the station said.

The "super typhoon" was packing gale-force winds 198 kilometers per hour (roughly 120 mph) at its center, it said.
Since that story was written, at 5AM, EDT, the storm has intensified, with sustained winds upwards of 150 mph now.

Unlike the United States with Katrina and Rita in 2005, China seems to understand that typhoons/hurricanes are deadly. The government has undertaken the massive task of finding shelter for 14 million people, and evacuating 200,000 people from the caostlines near Shanghai.

Imagine the hue and cry conservatives would have raised in 2005 if the Bush administration had tried to do that in an area that might contain 1/5th that population.

Meterologists are predicting that Wipha may be the single most destructive storm in a decade. That's saying an awful lot when you consider that, yes, that includes Katrina.

Wipha has already passed Taiwan and Japan, killing at least two people, but caused more property damage than anything else, and shut down transportation on Taiwan and the Akita province of Japan.

And then it started building strength in the China Sea, where water temperatures have been an unusually balmy 85 degrees...