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Three Pacific typhoons
at the same time
A typhoon is defined as a tropical cyclone in the western Pacific. Typhoons generally track in a westward or northern direction, and occur most frequently in a region of the western Pacific and east Asia that includes the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, southern China, South Korea, southern Japan, Guam, the Marianas Islands and parts of Micronesia. They generally do not occur south of the Philippines and blow themselves out if they travel west of Vietnam or into the interior of China.

A typhoon is essentially the same thing as a hurricane, which is defined as a strong tropical storm with winds over 75 miles per hour, occurring in the west Atlantic and the eastern Pacific, particularly in southeastern North Americas and the Caribbean. Similar storms in the Indian Ocean are called tropical cyclones. Ones that strike Australia are called willie willies. Cyclone is also a catch all phrase which describes all low pressure systems over tropical waters and includes typhoons and hurricanes. All these storms feature super heavy rain as well as high winds.

The word “typhoon” comes from the Cantonese word "tai feng." The approach of a typhoon is heralded by large waves, a storm surge, and falling barometric pressure. As it gets nearer mountains of cumulus clouds appear and wind squalls intensify, climaxing with a sweeping wall of dense clouds with furious winds and torrential rain. Describing a South China Sea storm in 1935, one American captain wrote: "A terrible crash was heard! The vessel trembled like an aspen-leaf...with the sea pouring in over the bow, and the topsails shivering like so many rags." Joseph Conrad described the storms in his novels Lord Jim and Typhoon.

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warning alert
The typhoon season lasts from the early summer to early autumn, often coinciding with the monsoon season in Southeast Asia and the wet season in eastern Japan. The main typhoon and hurrican season is from June to November. Sometimes they appear as early as May and as late as December. Storms can be particularly fierce in years of the El Niño. Usually more damage is caused by the heavy rain than by the winds.

Good Websites and Sources: Typhoon and Hurricane Basics aoml.noaa.gov ; Data and Images from Pacific Typhoons eorc.jaxa.jp/ADEOS Typhoon and Hurricane Satellite Images and Photos fotosearch.com ; Video from Nasty Typhoon in Taiwan YouTube ; Typhoon Video YouTube ; Central Pacific Hurricane Center at the National Weather Service prh.noaa.gov ; Wikipedia article on Tropical Cyclones Wikipedia ; National Hurricane Center at the National Weather Service nhc.noaa.gov ; Jet Propulsion Laboratory Images of Typhoons jpl.nasa.gov/images ; Links in this Website: LAND AND GEOGRAPHY OF CHINA Factsanddetails.com/China ; WEATHER IN CHINA Factsanddetails.com/China ; NATURAL DISASTERS IN CHINA Factsanddetails.com/China ; EARTHQUAKES Factsanddetails.com/China ; EARTHQUAKES IN CHINA Factsanddetails.com/China ;SICHUAN EARTHQUAKE IN 2008 Factsanddetails.com/China ; Factsanddetails.com/China ; RELIEF AND REBUILDING AFTER THE SICHUAN EARTHQUAKE IN 2008 Factsanddetails.com/China ; SICHUAN EARTHQUAKE IN 2008, POORLY-BUILT SCHOOLS Factsanddetails.com/China ; FLOODS IN CHINA Factsanddetails.com/China ;

Typhoon Dynamics

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Typhoon Megi in October 2010
Hurricanes and typhoons in the northern hemisphere have an eye and thunderstorm-producing cumulus clouds that spiral out in a clockwise direction from the eye. They eye is 5 to 25 miles wide and is relatively calm, sometimes windless. Strong winds blowing towards the center of the area of extreme low pressure and cirrus streamer clouds radiating in a east or southeast direction are bent by the Coriolis affect. The most destructive part of the storm is usually the northern, leading side of the storm. The east side of a typhoon generally is more devastating than the west side.

The “eyewall,” an area just beyond the eye, is the region of the storm with the most intense winds. It is often only a kilometer or so wide but it interacts with the rings of thunderstorms that produce the heaviest winds and rains and its behavior and dynamics are crucial to the behavior of the storm as a whole. The eyewall is shaped by two opposing forces: 1) moist, warm air from inside the eye, which can feed the eyewall, strengthening it; and 2) dry air from outside the eye that can slowly bleed into it, and calm it down.

Air flowing from high pressure to low pressure causes winds. If the difference between high pressure and low pressure is great, intense circulation is generated, causing a powerful storm. As air spirals into a low-pressure zone warm humid air and warm sea surface winds meet and ascend, causing clouds to billow upwards. Further lowering of air pressure can cause winds to swirl even faster towards the center.

The deflecting action of the Earth’s rotation spins the developing cyclone (counterclockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere). When water in the ascending clouds cools and falls as rain heat energy is produced, which further warms the storm, lowering the pressure and making the storm stronger. The cyclone can continue to strengthen as long as it remains over warm water and is not destroyed by vertical wind shear---winds traveling at different speeds at lower and high altitudes---which can cut off the top of a storm breaking up its energy producing engine.

Types of Typhoons

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Typhoon Durian in
December 2006
Supertyphoons are very destructive. They are defined as typhoons with winds over 150 miles per hour. Such storms produce horizontal rain and can measure several hundred miles across, cover thousands of square miles and reach an altitude of almost ten miles. The largest storm on record, the 1979 typhoon Tip, produced gale force across a 650 mile area.

The power generated by a major hurricane or typhoon is said to be equal to half a million nuclear bombs. The power of an average storm is said to be equal to 1.5 trillion watts---the equivalent to about half the world’s entire electrical generating capacity.

Atlantic storms and hurricanes are defined as: 1) a tropical depression; 2) a tropical storm (less than 74 miles per hour); 3) Category One (between 74 and 95 miles per hour); 4) Category Two (between 95 and 110 miles per hour); 3) Category Three (between 111 and 130 miles per hour); Category Four (between 131 and 155 miles per hour); and Category Four (more than 155 miles per hour).

In Asia, different countries have different systems for identifying typhoons. Some countries such as Japan use numbers. Others use names.

Typhoon Formation

flooding after typhoon
Typhoons develop in an area of the tropical Pacific at a latitude between 10 and 20 degrees north. They usually begin as westward-drifting “waves” of clouds drawn into an area of low pressure around the Caroline Islands of Micronesia (between Hawaii and the Philippines in the Pacific) and grow into westward-moving tropical depressions.

Because the Caroline Islands of Micronesia are breeding grounds for typhoons they rarely get hit by fully developed storms. Typhoons usually pass north of Palau.

As the clouds advance across the warm water they pick up energy as the water evaporates. At a critical point the clouds develop into a vortex of air that rotates in a counter-clockwise direction because of the Coriolis effect (see above). The water temperatures generally have to be above 80̊F for all this to occur. The warmer the sea surface temperatures are, and the more warm, moist air there is, the stronger the storm will be.

A number of things have to come together for a typhoon to form. Among them are the presence of an initial low-pressure system that pulls the air to a particular spot in the ocean; the Coriolis effect spinning the air in a vortex; differences in wind speed in the upper and lower parts of the atmosphere that create horizontal “shear forces”; and the presence of cold air 10 miles up in the atmosphere.

Typhoon Development

Factors that influence typhoon development include water temperatures and rainfall amounts in the Pacific; El Niño (which produces high-level winds that blow the top off typhoon clouds); and stratospheric jet-stream wind patterns. Scientist also believe that typhoons can be influenced by seemingly unrelated things like the atmospheric temperatures above Singapore.

According to a study by scientists at the University College London high sea temperatures are the most reliable indicator of increased typhoon and hurricane activity. The reasoning is that warmer seas cause more water to evaporate. As the water rises, latent heat is released which provides the energy for a low pressure cell to develop into a hurricane.

Typhoon Engine

Typhoon Tokage
Typhoons are self-feeding and self-reinforcing events fueled by: 1) evaporated water that releases energy when it condenses back into water; and 2) driving rapid updrafts that cause water to evaporate from the ocean, forming self-sustaining vortexes of swirling clouds and high winds. The dynamics of all this---especially of forces than can cause a storm to suddenly intensify---remain little understood. Among the clues that a storm is about to intensify are the presence of chimney clouds called hot towers that can reach as high as 11 milies into the atmosphere.

Rapidly moving air over warm water absorbs unusually large amount of water vapor through evaporation. As the air converge at the center of the storm, it rises. As the air rises, it cools and some of the water vapor condenses into droplets. That process release energy in the form of “heat cf condensation.” [Source: Washington Post, ✳]

The heat is released into a column of air that is already warmer than the air outside the storm. There can be as much as a 30̊F difference between air in the eyewall and air at the same altitude outside the storm. The heat dissipates slowly, in part because the air is contained in a rotating system. Meanwhile, the newly released reheated air continues to rise, eventually losing more moisture and condensation and releasing more heat. In this way a large and powerful typhoon can influence its environment in such a way as to allow the storm to get even bigger and stronger.✳

When the rising air exits from the system, sometimes as high as 50,000 feet above the sea surface, it is cold and relatively dry. As it departs more air is pulled in at the bottom of the storm, continuing the cycle. The energy from the warm water beneath the storm is vital to keeping the whole thing going. When a typhoon goes over cool water or land it tends to fall apart. High upper atmosphere winds are also great typhoon killers. They can sometimes sheer the tops off of a typhoon and cause it to suddenly collapse.

Hurricanes maintain and gain strength over the sea and lose strength when the go overland. Islands are often so small they little effect. The intensity of a storm is also related to its interaction with the sea. Warm water at the top of the ocean provides fuel. As the storm spins, it churns the water beneath it, bringing cooler water from the depths. The cooler water acts as a brake to slow the engine down. Some of the most intense storms are feed by warm water that is hundreds of meters deep and the breaking action of cooler water does not occur. Large waves can also slow a storm down by blunting the winds that created them.

Damage from Typhoons

Typhoon Tokage
Typhoons can cause millions or even billions of dollars in damage. Buildings slide down hillsides; valleys flood; villages disappear under landslides and mud slides; roads and bridges are washed away; crops become waterlogged, or are blown over or uprooted, or covered in mud. Destruction levels can be particularly high when a storm stalls and strong, driving rains persist for hours or even days, or when the storm slams into mountains, producing particularly large amounts of rain. Some typhoons are so powerful they blow plankton and small sea creatures into the sky, where they float around on clouds.

Usually much more damage and death is caused by rains than winds. People die from being hit by flying debris or falling trees or crushed in collapsed building but are more likely to die from drowning in flooded rivers or from suffocating under rain-induced mud slides and landslides. Most victims from really deadly storms die from storm surges---masses of ocean water that are pushed forward by the winds---that can penetrate several miles inland. The surges are particularly deadly if they occur at high tide.

Typhoons often do the most damage on low coral islands which are sometimes inundated with waves that can reach a height of 30 meters at sea and storm surges that sweep water across the entire island, annihilating every tree and hut in their path. Modern buildings and houses with cinder block walls and metal roofs are usually strong enough to withstand the winds of strong typhoons but thatched-roof huts and shanties are easily blown over or crushed by falling trees. Palm trees also blow over pretty easily because they don't have a deep root system.

Long term damage and hardships from typhoons are caused by sickness and starvation as water supplies become contaminated; cholera and dysentery; poisonous snakes flooded out of their dens; damaged crops and stored food; and the disruption or destruction of transportation routes used to bring in relief supplies. Over the longer term fields and agricultural land may be is destroyed and rivers may be rerouted. Where factories are washed away and infrastructure is damaged, people may begin migrating out. In poor countries there is inevitably not enough money to fix everything.

Typhoons in China

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from a typhoon in 1939
Devastating typhoons strike southern and eastern provinces such as Guangdong, Fujian and Zhejian, south of Shanghai, with some regularity, uprooting trees, knocking down power lines, destroying houses, producing flash floods. It is not uncommon for typhoons to hit Taiwan and then devastate the Fujian coat of China.

Most typhoons track east and north and first strike places like Guam, Saipan, Taiwan and Okinawa and then either move northward into Japan or Korea or move westward into the Philippines, Vietnam, or China.

Damage and death are more often the result of heavy rains than high winds. Typhoons tend to hit hardest in coastal areas that have elaborate dike networks and extensive practice in evacuating flood-prone areas.

In August 1956, a typhoon with winds up to 243 kph killed 4,900 people in Zhejiang Province. In 1997 Typhoon Winnie, a very powerful typhoon, struck the east coast of China, killing 250 people and causing $2.2 billion worth of damage, in July 2001, a powerful typhoon called Utor killed 121 people in the Philippines and 46 in China.

Typhoon Nina and the Collapse of the Banqiao Dam in 1975 Kills 229,000

Typhoon Nina, which struck China and Taiwan in August 1975, was the fourth-deadliest tropical cyclone on record. Approximately 229,000 people died after the Banqiao Dam collapsed and devastated areas downstream. The collapse of the dam due to heavy floods also caused a string of smaller dams to collapse, adding more damage by the typhoon. [Source: Wikipedia +]

Nina underwent explosive development on the late hours of August 1. Aircraft reconnaissance reported a 65 hPa drop of pressure on the same day as well as August 2 with wind speeds increasing from a mere 75 mph (120 km/h) to 150 mph (240 km/h) during that period and it attained its peak intensity of 155 mph (250 km/h) later that day. The typhoon began to weaken as it approached Taiwan, making landfall near the coastal city of Hualien as a Category 3 storm with 115 mph (185 km/h) winds. +

The storm began to weaken as it battered across the island's central mountain range, sparing the most populated areas from the eyewall. It entered the Formosa Straits as a weak typhoon and the storm came ashore near Jinjiang, Fujian, China. After moving toward the northwest and crossing Jiangxi, it turned north on the night of August 5 near Changde, Hunan. A day later, the storm moved over Xinyang, Henan, and later was blocked by a cold front near Zhumadian, Henan for three days. The stationary thunderstorm system brought heavy rainfall, causing the infamous collapse of the Banqiao Dam. The storm moved southwest on August 8, and dissipated soon afterwards. +

Due to the interaction with the mountains of Taiwan, Nina weakened to a tropical storm before making landfall in mainland China. The storm crossed the coastline with winds of 110 km/h (70 mph); however, little damage resulted near where the system struck land. Further inland, the remnants of the storm produced widespread torrential rainfall, with more than 400 mm (16 in) falling across an area of 19,410 km2 (7,500 mi2). The heaviest rainfall was recorded along the Banqiao Dam where 1,631 mm (64.2 in) of rain fell, 830 mm (33 in) of which fell in a six hour span. These rains led to the collapse of the Banqiao Dam, which received 1-in-2000-year flood conditions. In all, 62 dams failed during the disaster, causing large temporary lakes and $1.2 billion (1975 USD) in damage. +

Deadliest Tropical Cyclones Rank Name/Year Region Fatalities: 1) Bhola 1970 Bangladesh 500,000; 2) India 1839 India 300,000; 3) Haiphong 1881 Vietnam 300,000; 4) Nina 1975 China 229,000; 5) Bangladesh 1991 Bangladesh 138,000; 6) Nargis 2008 Myanmar 138,000. Sources: NOAA, ReliefWeb]

Collapse of the Banqiao Dam

The Banqiao Reservoir Dam is a dam on the River Ru in Zhumadian City, Henan province, China. Its failure in 1975 caused more casualties than any other dam failure in history. The Banqiao dam and Shimantan Reservoir Dam are among 62 dams in Zhumadian that failed catastrophically or were intentionally destroyed in 1975 during Typhoon Nina. The dam failures killed an estimated 171,000 people; 11 million people lost their homes. It also caused the sudden loss of 18 GW of power, the power output equivalent of roughly 9 very large modern coal-fired thermal power stations. The Banqiao dam was subsequently rebuilt. [Source: Wikipedia +]

According to the Hydrology Department of Henan Province, in the province, approximately 26,000 people died from flooding and another 145,000 died during subsequent epidemics and famine. In addition, about 5,960,000 buildings collapsed, and 11 million residents were affected. Unofficial estimates of the number of people killed by the disaster have run as high as 230,000 people. The death toll of this disaster was declassified in 2005. +

Construction of the Banqiao dam began in April 1951 on the Ru River with the help of Soviet consultants as part of a project to control flooding and electrical power generation. The construction was a response to severe flooding in the Huai River Basin in 1949 and 1950. The dam was completed in June 1952. Because of the absence of hydrology data, the design standard was lower than usual. After the 1954 Huai River great flood, the upstream reservoirs including Banqiao were extended, constructed and consolidated. Banqiao Dam was increased in height by three meters. The dam crest level was 116.34 meters above sea level and the crest level of the wave protection wall was 117.64 meter above sea level. The total capacity of reservoir was 492 million m³ (398,000 acre feet), with 375 million m³ (304,000 acre feet) reserved for flood storage. The dam was made of clay and was 24.5 metres high. The maximum discharge of the reservoir was 1742 m³/s. Cracks in the dam and sluice gates appeared after completion due to construction and engineering errors. They were repaired with the advice from Soviet engineers and the new design, dubbed the iron dam, was considered unbreakable. +

Chen Xing, one of China's foremost hydrologists was involved in the design of the dam. He was also a vocal critic of the government dam building policy, which involved many dams in the basin. He had recommended 12 sluice gates for the Banqiao Dam, but this was scaled back to five. Chen Xing was criticized as being too conservative. Other dams in the project, including the Shimantan Dam, had a similar reduction of safety features and Chen was removed from the project. In 1961, after problems with the water system were revealed, he was brought back to help. Chen continued to be an outspoken critic of the system and was again removed from the project. +

Officially, the dam failure was a natural as opposed to man-made disaster, with government sources placing an emphasis on the amount of rainfall as opposed to poor engineering and construction. After the flood, a summit of National Flood Prevention and Reservoir Security at Zhengzhou, Henan was held by the Department of Water Conservancy and Electricity, and a nationwide reservoir security examination was performed after this meeting. Chen Xing was again brought back to the project. +

1975 Flood from Typhoon Nina and the Collapse of the Banqiao Dam

The People's Daily has maintained that the dam was designed to survive a once-in-1000-years flood (300 mm of rainfall per day) but a once-in-2000-years flood occurred in August 1975, following the collision of Super Typhoon Nina and a cold front. The typhoon was blocked for two days before its direction ultimately changed from northeastward to west. As a result of this near stationary thunderstorm system, more than a year's rain fell within 24 hours (new records were set, at 189.5 mm rainfall per hour and 1060 mm per day, exceeding the average annual precipitation of about 800 mm), which weather forecasts failed to predict. China Central Television reported that the typhoon disappeared from radar as it degraded. According to Xinhua, the forecast was for rainfall of 100 mm by the Beijing-based Central Meteorological Observatory. [Source: Wikipedia +]

Communications to the dam was largely lost due to wire failures. On August 6, a request to open the dam was rejected, because of the existing flood in downstream areas. On August 7, however, the request was accepted, but the telegrams failed to reach the dam. The sluice gates were not able to handle the overflow of water, partially due to sedimentation blockage. On August 7 at 21:30, the People's Liberation Army Unit 34450 (by name the 2nd Artillery Division in residence at Queshan county), which was deployed on the Banqiao Dam, sent the first dam failure warning via telegraph. On August 8, at 1:00, water at the Banqiao crested at the 117.94 meters level above sea level, or 0.3 meter higher than the wave protection wall on the dam, and it failed. The same storm precipitated the failure of 62 dams in total. The runoff of Banqiao Dam was 13,000 m³ per second in vs. 78,800 m³ per second out, and as a result 701 million m³ of water were released in 6 hours, while 1.67 billion m³ of water were released in 5.5 hours at upriver Shimantan Dam, and 15.738 billion m³ of water were released in total. +

The resulting flood waters caused a wave, 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) wide and 3–7 meters (9.8–23 feet) high in Suiping, to rush onto the plains below at nearly 50 kilometers per hour (31 mph), almost wiping out an area 55 kilometers (34 miles) long and 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) wide, and creating temporary lakes as large as 12,000 square kilometers (4,600 sq miles). Seven county seats, Suiping, Xiping, Ru'nan, Pingyu, Xincai, Luohe, Linquan were inundated, as were thousands of square kilometers of countryside and countless communities. Evacuation orders had not been fully delivered due to weather conditions and poor communications. Telegraphs failed, signal flares fired by Unit 34450 were misunderstood, telephones were rare, and some messengers were caught by the flood. While only 827 out of 6,000 people died in the evacuated community of Shahedian just below Banqiao Dam, half of a total of 36,000 people died in the unevacuated Wencheng commune of Suipin County next to Shahedian, and the Daowencheng Commune was wiped from the map, killing all 9,600 citizens. Although a large number of people were reported lost at first, many of them later returned home. A 2005 book compiled by the Archives Bureau of Suiping county reports that more than 230,000 were carried away by water, in which 18,869 died. It has been reported that 90,000 - 230,000 people were killed as a result of the dam breaking. +

To protect other dams from failure, several flood diversion areas were evacuated and inundated, and several dams were deliberately destroyed by air strikes to release water in desired directions. The Nihewa and Laowangpo flood diversion areas downstream of the dams soon exceeded their capacity and gave up part of their storage on August 8, forcing more flood diversion areas to begin to evacuate. The dikes on the Quan River collapsed in the evening of August 9, and the entire Linquan county in Fuyang, Anhui was inundated. As the Boshan Dam, with a capacity of 400 million m³, crested, and the water released from the failures of Banqiao and Shimantan was rushing downstream, air strikes were made against several other dams to protect the Suya Lake dam, already holding 1.2 billion m³ of water. Suya Lake only won a temporary reprieve, and both it and Boshan became targets as well. Finally, the Bantai Dam, holding 5.7 billion m³ of water, was bombed. +

The Jingguang Railway, a major artery from Beijing to Guangzhou, was cut for 18 days, as were other crucial communications lines. Although 42,618 People's Liberation Army troops were deployed for disaster relief, all communication to and from the cities was cut. Nine days later there were still over a million people trapped by the waters, who relied on airdrops of food and unreachable to disaster relief. Epidemics and famine devastated the trapped survivors. The damage of the Zhumadian area was estimated to be about CN¥ 3.5 billion (US$513 million). The Zhumadian government appealed to the whole nation for help, and received more than CN¥ 300 million (US$44,000,000) in donations. +

Reconstruction of Banqiao Dam

Within eleven years after the dam failure, the lower reach of the River Ru, esp. Zhumadian City, experienced several more disastrous floods. After many feasibility studies, the new Banqiao Reservoir reconstruction was listed as a key national project of The Seventh Five-Year Plan of China. The project owner was Huai River Water Resources Commission. The construction contractor was Changjiang Gezhouba Engineering Bureau. By the end of 1986, the rebuilding project commenced. On June 5, 1993, the project was certified by the Chinese government. [Source: Wikipedia +]

The reconstructed Banqiao Reservoir controls a catchment area of 768 km2 (297 sq miles). The maximum reserve capacity is 675 million m³ (178 billion gallions), a capacity increase of 34 percent above the capacity of the failed dam. The effective storage is 256 million m³ (67.6 billion gallions) and the corresponding normal high water level is 111.5 meters (366 feet) above sea level. The flood control storage is 457 million m³ (121 billion gallions). The dam is made of clay and is 3,720 meters (12,200 feet) long, and 50.5 meters (166 feet) high. The dam crest level is 120 meters (390 feet) above sea level. The maximum discharge of the reservoir is 15000 m³/s (about 3.96 million gallons/s). Legacy

After the disaster of the Banqiao dam failure, the Chinese government became very focused on surveillance, repair, and consolidation of reservoir dams. China has 87,000 reservoirs across the country; most of which were built in the 1950s-1970s using low construction standards. Most of these reservoirs are in serious disrepair, posing challenges to the prevention and control of flood-triggered geological disasters in areas with a population of 130 million or more. China's medium and small rivers are considered to be the Achilles' heel in the country's river control systems. According to statistics from the Ministry of Water Resources, China has invested CN¥ 64.9 billion (US$9.72 billion) since the 1998 Yangtze River floods in repairing and consolidating the country's 9197 degraded reservoirs, of which 2397 are large or medium sized, and 6800 are key small reservoirs. All of the above projects should be finished before the end of 2010. However, there are 5400 small (1) reservoirs and a great many even smaller (2) reservoirs in need of repair. The capacity of a small (1) reservoir is defined to be between 1 million m³ and 10 million m³. The capacity of a small (2) reservoir is defined to be between 100,000 m³ and 1 million m³. Projects to repair and consolidate 5400 small (1) reservoirs will be completed before the end of 2012. Projects for the remaining smaller (2) reservoirs will be completed within 3–5 years.

Typhoons in China in 2004

In August 2004, Typhoon Rananim (Typhoon No. 13), the most powerful typhoon to hit China in seven years, devastated Zhejiang Province, killing 164 people, injuring more than 1,800, destroying 42,000 homes and damaging tens of thousands more. At its height winds were more than 160 kilometers per hour. More than 400,000 people were evacuated. Damage was estimated at $2.1 billion. Rananim means “hello” in Chuukeve language spoken in Micronesia.

In August 2004, a half million people were evacuated from the east coast of China before Typhoon Aere struck.

Typhoons in China in 2005

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Typhoon Bilis
In 2005, eight typhoons made landfall in China. In May 2005, typhoon Chanchu struck Fujian and Guangdong Provinces in eastern, coastal China, causing the deaths of at least 11 people and prompting the evacuation of 1 million residents. It made landfall between the cities of Shanto and Xiamen with 170kph winds. It was the strongest typhoon on record to enter the South China Sea in May.

In July 2005, typhoon No. 5 (Typhoon Kaemi) struck Fujian Province in eastern, coastal China, causing the deaths of at least 25 people and prompting the evacuation of 643,000 residents. To alert people officials sent text-message warning to six million cell phone users in the region. Also in July, a million people were evacuated from of Zhejian and Fujian before Typhoon Haitang struck. Trees were toppled, houses were destroyed and roads were blocked by that storm.

In August 2005, a half million people were evacuated from the southeastern coast south of Shanghai of China before Typhoon Matsa struck. The storm caused 13 deaths and hundreds of millions of dollars in damage in southern and eastern China and even forced evacuations in the Beijing area where landslides might occur.

In August 2005, a typhoon hit Zhejiang Province, killing at least four people. More than 1 million people were evacuated. In Shanghai the storm toppled trees and severely damaged a construction site in the middle of the city.

Typhoons in China in September 2005

In September 2005, Typhoon Damrey, the strongest typhoon in 30 years, struck Hainan island, forcing more than 170,000 people from their homes and damaging crops and causing casualties.

In September 2005, Typhoon Longwang struck southern China. Eighty-six Chinese military students were was washed away after torrential rains produced a flash flood that swept down a hill. The students had evacuated a building in the city of Fuzhou that collapsed from the pressure of flood water.

In September 2005, at least 124 people were killed in floods and landslides caused by Typhoon Talim in eastern China. More than 600,000 were evacuated before it made landfall in Fujian Province with 117 kph winds and 10 meter waves. Many deaths occured and 17,200 houses were destroyed inland in Anhui Province.

20080317-typhoon_big saomi national geographic.jpg
Damage from Typhoon Saomi in August 2006

Typhoons in China in 2006

China experienced an unusually destructive typhoon season in 2006 too. Some meteorologist attributed the trend to unusually warm Pacific currents and weather patterns over Tibet that helped create bigger storms and draw them inland.

In July 2006, Tropical Storm Bilis killed 600 people, swept away homes and forced the evacuation of three million people. It triggered flooding and landslides as far inland as Hunan Province, hundreds of kilometers from the coast. Many of the dead were in mountain villages and other inland areas in Hunan that rarely experience the effects of a typhoon. About 450 people were killed in Hunan, 100 died in Guangdong and 35 were killed Guangxi Province.

In August 2006, Typhoon Prapiroon struck the Chinese southern coast, packing 118 kph winds when it came ashore. It killed at least 80 people, destroyed 46,000 houses and produced floods and landslides in Guangdong and Guangxi Provinces. The damage was estimated to be $300 million. The dead included people buried under landslides, struck by lightning, crushed by collapsed walls and hit by a billboard knocked down by the high winds. More than 400,000 people had been evacuated.

Typhoon Saomi in China

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Typhoon Saomi
In August 2006, China was hit by the strongest typhoon in more than 50 years. Typhoon No 8 (Typhoon Saomai) killed at least 436 people, flooded hectares of rice fields, knocked down power lines, blacked out entire cities and destroyed 50,000 dwellings in Fujian, Zhejiang and Jiangxi Provinces with torrential rains and winds that reached speed of 216 kilometers per hour. More than 1.3 million people were evacuated and 20,000 soldiers and paramilitary police were mobilized. Damage was estimated at around $1.5 billion. Saomi is the Vietnamese name for Venus.

Many were killed in the cities of Wenzhou and Lishui in Zhejiang Province, where the typhoon made landfall and more than 29,000 houses collapsed as a result of torrential rains and strong winds. Some died in buildings that collapsed after they sought shelter in them. Wenzhou suffered $560 million in damage. In one area, 43 bodies, including eight children, were found in the debris of collapsed houses. A landslide in Lishui left six people dead. Many of the places that were hit were still recovering from Tropical Storm Billis.

Most if the 241 dead in Fujian were fishermen whose boats were sunk by waves and wind. More than 1,000 boats were sunk. Bodies of sailors washed up on the shores. Most were killed when the moorings broke on ships that had sought refuge in the harbor. The government didn’t issue adequate warnings and many fishermen were caught by surprise.

Typhoons in China in the 2007

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Rain from Typhoon Wipha
In August 2007, at least 14 people were killed and 900,000 were forced to relocate when Typhoon Sepat struck southern and eastern China. Many of the deaths were attributed to a tornado that ripped through an area near Wenzhou City in Zhejiang Province. Most of those relocated were in Fujian Province. Winds reached 119kph, rippingoff roofs and knocking down trees. Heavy rains dropped up to 300 millimeters of rain in 24 hour period caused extensive flooding.

In September 2007, powerful typhoon Wipha struck southeastern China. The storm killed nine people, including five that were killed in a landside and two who were electrocuted. Flooded streets and rail lines caused widespread transportation disruptions. Authorities in Shanghai, Zhejiang and Fujian Provinces ordered the evacuation of two million people. In Shanghai schools, ferries and other transport links were closed. The storm caused an estimated $880 million in damage.

Typhoons in China in 2008, 2009 and 2010

In October 2008, Typhoon Hagupit struck a densely populated area of southern China, causing the evacuation of 100,000 people. The storm reached category strength when it as over the sea and was downgraded to 3 after it made landfall,

Typhoon Morokat devastated Taiwan in August 2009, and also did serious damage in eastern China, where it left 10 people dead and destroyed 6,000 houses . A massive landslide triggered by torrential rains topped seven houses in a Pengxi, Zhejiang Province . An eyewitness told AFP, “At about 10 o’clock at night I head a very loud noise. I thought it was an earthquake, but I saw through the window that the old buildings has fallen down. My house stands on the opposite of the road 10 meters from them.”

20111106-wiki C typhoon Shanghai_Wipha_Flood.jpg
flooding in Shanghai from Typhoon Wipha

More than 1 million people were evacuated before the storm made landfall with 119 kilometer per hour winds. Trees were uprooted; houses were flooded and farmers used buckets to catch fish washed from flooded fish farm ponds. Villages officials road around on bicycles distributing water and instant noodles.

In July 2010, Typhoon Chanthu struck Guangdong Province with winds up to 126 kph. Three people were killed and heavy flooding was reported. A few days earlier Typhoon Conson skirted the southern coast of China, killing at least two people, and ripping up trees and tearing down electricity pylons on Hainan island.

Chinese Fishermen Killed as Typhoon Hits South Korea in 2012

In August 2012, the BBC reported: “At least five Chinese fishermen have been killed and 10 others are missing after their boats capsized as Typhoon Bolaven hit South Korea, officials say. The two boats were just off Jeju island when they capsized. The South Korean coast guard rescued 12 crew members, while six others swam to shore. [Source: BBC, August 28, 2012]

A total of 33 people were on board the two ships when they were hit by high waves and winds, the coast guard said. Several crew members were hauled to safety by rescue personnel using ropes. A search is continuing for those still missing, emergency personnel said. China has issued a yellow alert - the second-highest level - as forecasters expect Bolaven to make landfall in Dandong in the north-eastern Liaoning province and north-western North Korea on Tuesday, China's state Xinhua news agency reported.

Typhoon Soulik Kills Three in China's Guangdong Region in July 2013

In July 2013, the BBC reported: “Three people have died after Typhoon Soulik hit China's southern Guangdong province, state media say. The storm, which has already killed two others in Taiwan, forced a further 20,000 people to flee their homes, the Xinhua news agency reports. Some 300,000 people have already been evacuated from eastern China amid warnings of floods and landslides. Forecasters say the typhoon weakened as it moved inland on Sunday but heavy rain and strong winds persist. [Source: BBC, July 14, 2013 ////]

Winds of 119 km/hour (74 mph) had earlier lashed the coastal Fujian Province, said China's National Meteorological Centre. Emergency response plans were being implemented, said Xinhua, after recent torrential rain reportedly left 200 people dead or missing. Thousands of soldiers were deployed to carry out relief work. ////

Typhoon Soulik, the seventh typhoon to hit the Chinese mainland this year, first hit Fujian province. Waves as high as 10m (32ft) hit Yuhuan County in Zhejiang Province It moved to Jiangxi province and torrential rains toppled more than 1,000 houses in Guangdong, Xinhua said. In Fujian and Zhejiang, another Chinese coastal province, flights and train services were cancelled and fishing boats called back to shore. Waves as high as 10m (32ft) hit Yuhuan County in Zhejiang province and authorities warned residents to stay away from the dangerous coastline.The strong winds and heavy rain have caused electricity disruptions, a run on food and essential supplies in supermarkets, and uprooted trees and signs in some areas. ////

Typhoon Usagi in September 2013

In September 2013, Al-Jazeera and Associated Press reported: “A powerful storm hit Hong Kong and the southern China coast on Monday blowing cars off roads, crippling power lines, causing flooding and killing at least 25 people.Typhoon Usagi, the strongest storm to hit the western Pacific this year, began pounding southern China late Sunday. More than 370 flights were canceled, and financial markets closed for at least part of the morning. Shipping and train lines were also shut down before Usagi weakened to a tropical depression over the southern Chinese province of Guangdong. China's National Meteorological Center issued its highest alert, with more than 80,000 people moved to safety in Fujian province and authorities deploying at least 50,000 disaster-relief workers, state news agency Xinhua reported. [Source: Al-Jazeera, Associated Press, September 23, 2013]

China said 25 deaths occurred in Guangdong, where the typhoon made landfall late Sunday near Shanwei with sustained winds of 109 miles per hour, a city record. The victims included people hit by debris and others who had drowned. One man was killed by a falling window pane. Winds toppled trees and cranes and blew cars off roads in some areas and brought down three major power lines in coastal Fujian, cutting electricity to about 170,000 households, Xinhua said. "It is the strongest typhoon I have ever encountered," Luo Hailing, a gas-station attendant in Shanwei, told Xinhua. "So terrible. Lucky we made preparations.”

Associated Press reported: “The year's most powerful typhoon has hit southern China, forcing hundreds of flight cancellations, shutting down shipping and putting a nuclear power plant on alert after pummelling parts of the Philippines and Taiwan with heavy rains and fierce winds. Typhoon Usagi veered away from Hong Kong at the last minute and made landfall north-east of the former British colony. Forecasters had warned earlier that it posed a "severe threat" to the southern Chinese city.southern Chinese city. [Source: Associated Press, September 22, 2013]

Usagi – Japanese for rabbit – was classified as a severe typhoon, with sustained winds of 109mph (175km/h) and gusts of up to 132mph. It was downgraded from a super typhoon – with its sustained winds falling below 150mph – as it passed through the Luzon strait separating the Philippines and Taiwan, probably sparing residents in both places from the most destructive winds near its eye.

The typhoon landed near the city of Shanwei in the Chinese province of Guangdong, about 87 miles (140km) north-east of Hong Kong, and was moving west-north-west at 140 mph, the Hong Kong Observatory said. It was expected to skirt about 60 miles north of Hong Kong. Ferry services between Hong Kong and Macau and outlying islands were suspended as the observatory raised the No 8 storm warning signal, the third highest on a five-point scale. It reported winds as strong as 42mph and warned that a storm surge and heavy rains could cause flooding in low-lying areas.

Police in Shanwei ordered more than 8,000 fishing boats to return to port and more than 1,200 residents were taken to temporary shelters, China's official Xinhua news agency reported. The typhoon wreaked havoc on airport schedules in Hong Kong, nearby Macau and mainland China, upsetting travel plans for many passengers who were returning home at the end of the three-day mid-autumn festival long weekend. Fujian province suspended shipping between mainland China and Taiwan, the news agency said. Authorities in Guangdong initiated an emergency response plan for the Daya Bay nuclear power station north-east of Hong Kong as Usagi approached, ordering four of six reactors to operate at a reduced load, Xinhua said.

Typhoon Fitow in October 2013

In October 2013, the BBC reported: “Powerful Typhoon Fitow has rammed into eastern China after triggering the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of people. With winds up to 151km/h (93mph), the storm landed in Fujian province early on Monday, bringing heavy rains and causing widespread power cuts. The authorities earlier issued the highest alert - red - for the area. [Source: Xinhua, October 7, 2013]

At least two people have been killed by the typhoon, state-run news agency Xinhua reported. One victim was on his way to rescue a fisherman when he was blown off a hill by strong winds late on Sunday, Xinhua said.Some homes are said to have collapsed in neighbouring Zhejiang province and two port workers are missing.

Typhoon Fitow - named after a flower - made landfall at 1:15am local time in the city of Fuding, Chinese meteorologists said. The typhoon had affected over three million people in Zhejiang and caused economic damage of over 2 billion yuan ($330 million), Xinhua said, citing the provincial flood control office. Parts of China have been hit by up to 200mm (8 inches) of rain, AFP news agency reported. Over the weekend the authorities drafted in the army to help strengthen flood defences, the BBC's John Sudworth in Shanghai reports.

Al-Jazeera reported: Typhoon Fitow hit China just two weeks after Typhoon Usagi wreaked havoc in the region. Five people have been killed and hundreds of thousands evacuated after Typhoon Fitow hit eastern China, destroying houses and farmlands and closing ports and airports. Cities in southeastern China were submerged in floodwaters after the powerful storm slammed ashore with high winds and heavy rain and caused disruption to transport services Torrential rain prompted the Fujian provincial government to initiate the highest emergency response for flood control.The provincial government said 177,000 people had been moved to safety and nearly 30,000 fishing boats called back. [Source: Al-Jazeera, October 8, 2013]

Packing winds up to 151kph, Fitow hit Fuding city in Fujian province early before weakening into a tropical storm later in the day, the official Xinhua news agency reported. Flight and train services in Zhejiang province, south of Shanghai, were also suspended The flood relief agency in Zhejiang, which neighbours Fujian, said 574,000 people had been evacuated by Sunday evening and 35,800 vessels returned to shore. In Wenzhou city in Zhejiang province, the storm destroyed over 1,700 houses and 46,800 hectares of crop land, the report said.

Economic losses in the two provinces were estimated at about $2 billion, according to the official Xinhua News Agency. Named after a flower from Micronesia, Fitow has hit just two weeks after Typhoon Usagi wreaked havoc in the region, leaving at least 25 reported dead in southern China. It was the 23rd typhoon to hit China this year.

Image Sources: National Geographic, NASA, Wiki Commons

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated January 2014 /p>

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