At least two people are dead after a powerful typhoon hit Japan this week, covering parts of the country with record amounts of rain and putting more than 9 million people under evacuation orders.
Typhoon Nanmadol, one of the most powerful storms Japan has ever seen, made landfall on Sunday evening with winds up to 110 miles per hour (177 kilometers per hour) near the city of Kagoshima on Kyushu Island in the country’s southwest. The storm moved onto Honshu, Japan’s largest and most populated island, on Monday.
When Nanmandol made landfall Sunday, it clocked a central pressure reading of 935 millibars, making it tied as the fourth-lowest pressure storm on record to make landfall in Japan, the Yale Climate Connections Eye on the Storm blog reported. (Lower pressure makes for higher wind speeds, and thus a stronger storm.)
Officials in Miyazaki Prefecture on Kyushu said some places got more rain in 24 hours than they usually see in all of September, while river levels remained dangerously high. NHK, Japan’s public media broadcaster, reported that between last Thursday and Monday, some 39 inches (1 meter) of rain fell on Misato in Miyazaki Prefecture—about twice the amount that usually falls during the entire month. The Yale Climate Connections blog reported that at least five weather stations on Sunday recorded rainfall levels at nearly 20 inches (50 centimeters) over just a day; the highest of those was 27.34 inches (694.5 millimeters) at Mikado.
One of the confirmed deaths, CNN reported, was a man in his 60s found trapped in a car submerged under the floodwaters in the city of Miyakonojō. According to the Japan Times, another man was found dead in Miyazaki Prefecture after a mudslide destroyed his mountainside home. Reuters reported that at least 115 people were also injured in the storm, while a 82-year-old man who fell into the water is still missing.
“There have been mudslides several times around here. The soil is like clay so it collapses easily,” a 78-year-old man who lives in the town of Mimata told the Japan Times.
At the height of the storm on Monday, some 300,000 people were without power. Evacuation orders were in place for nearly 10 million people in the region; these orders are not mandatory. The storm weakened on Tuesday as it moved back toward the Pacific Ocean, although winds were still recorded at more than 78 miles per hour (126 kilometers per hour). Officials say despite the damage, the country avoided what could have been a worst-case scenario with such a powerful storm.
Typhoons like Nanmadol intensify over warming ocean waters, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change last year found that heavy storms have become 30% more frequent globally with the more than 1 degree Celsius of warming we have already experienced. Warmer air can also hold more moisture, and the IPCC reported last year that these storms contain about 7% more water on average than they used to. As the seas rise higher, damage from big storms like Nanmadol is also likely to increase.