September 26, 1959: Vera makes landfall. The tropical cyclone developed between Guam and Chuuk State on September 20, 1959. As it moved westward, it became a tropical storm the next day. It began to intensify rapidly and reached its peak on September 23 and had maximum sustained winds that would place it in a Category 5 hurricane today. The course of the storm began to shift northward and on this day, it made landfall on Honshu near Shionomisaki. It then moved into the Sea of Japan but again shifted course and headed back to Honshu, making landfall a second time. As the storm moved over land, the intensity fell off and it entered the North Pacific later in the day. By the following day, it was an extratropical cyclone and the storm lasted two more days out at sea.
Tracking at the time was available and it was known that the storm was both strong and headed towards Japan. The country was still recovering from World War II and telecommunications weren’t as sophisticated as today. News outlets also did not create any urgency about the impending storm. There was no call for moving inland, out of the raging winds and rains. The outermost rainbands came first and brought enough rain to cause flooding in river basins even though the storm was still far out to sea. As it approached, there was a huge storm surge which destroyed many flood defense systems and inundated coastal areas and sunk ships moored in the area.
The damage from the storm was listed as US$600 million or about $4.85 billion in today’s currency. The number of deaths has not been agreed upon but there were at least 4,000 people killed with the possibility the number was much higher. Vera is the deadliest typhoon to ever hit Japan. Relief efforts after Vera passed were also substandard. Both the Japanese and American governments rushed to help, but the systems in place were inadequate. These have since been reformed. The coastal areas which had been flooded led to local epidemics of both dysentery and tetanus. With the diseases spreading the area, relief efforts were hampered which meant more debris left in the area causing more spread of disease.
While in eastern America, we are faced with hurricane season, the Pacific Ocean creates its own typhoons. With better tracking, it is hoped that some of the damage to both life and property can be mitigated. The worst Pacific typhoon was the Haiphong typhoon of 1881 when 300,000 people died when the storm made landfall in what is now Vietnam after ravaging the Philippines first. Nina made landfall in Taiwan and China and resulted in 229,000 deaths most a result of the Banqiao Dam failing. Vera is the tenth deadliest Pacific storm with the worst storm in the world the Great Bhola Cyclone which struck Bangladesh in 1970. It left up to a half million people dead.
The typhoon came out of the sea first as a deep hollow roar. … I was surrounded by the madness, the unreason, of uncontrolled, undisciplined energy. None of this made any sense. It was worse than useless — it was nature destroying its own creation — its own self. To create by the long process of growth and then to destroy by a fit of wild emotion — was this not madness, was this not unreason? – Pearl S. Buck
If you spend your whole life waiting for the storm, you’ll never enjoy the sunshine. – Morris West
The little reed, bending to the force of the wind, soon stood upright again when the storm had passed over. – Aesop
The preparations are what they are. We’re here. The storm is coming. We are as best prepared as we can be as the eye of the storm approaches. – Russel Honore
Also on this day: The Parthenon – In 1687, part of the Parthenon was destroyed during a bombing attack by the Ottoman Turks.
Apples – In 1774, Johnny Appleseed was born.
Lurking Evil – In 1937, The Shadow premiered.
Thrown Games – In 1908, Big Ed Reulbach pitched a no hitter double header.
Pop Gun Kelly – In 1933, Machine Gun Kelly was arrested.