Typhoon Melor has just passed over Japan and it has caused me to do a lot of comparisons between a storm of this nature in America vs. Japan. Many times, I am asked for glimpses of what it is like to be a foreigner during certain situations. I could write a book about some of them! Here is one.
We knew the typhoon was coming last week. I didn’t think much of it. Usually they slow down and then hit the southern islands first and the most we get is heavy rain and possibly some strong breezes. I remember the day well when we lived in Seki and a typhoon passed over. We had no clue what was coming. We hadn’t been there long and didn’t know about Japanese news in English. We went shopping for some shoe sales for the kids. Everyone was talking about the typhoon. The sky was looking a little eerie, so we thought we better get home and prepare. We moved all the potted plants, put the clothes poles down, closed all the shutters and waited. Nothing happened. An hour later, I noticed all my neighbors opening their shutters and putting their property back in order. It seems we were out shopping when it passed over. Who knew?! Needless to say, when this one was predicted, I wasn’t worried.
A few days ago, they predicted that it was going to come on shore at Tokyo. We live south of Tokyo, so I knew we would be all right. I did think of people I know there and prayed they would be all right. The next news broadcast said it was a category 5, but then it downgraded to a 3. They were calling it a “SUPER TYPHOON.” I started to get concerned. Japan is a country of islands. The size of the typhoon would cover most of our island when it came on shore. I knew that we would get more than rain, so I started to monitor the news closely. Never was the speed of the winds mentioned. The main cause of concern seemed to be flooding. The day before it was to hit us, they announced a change in course. It was going to come on shore between Osaka and Nagoya. Businesses were closing. Factories closed for the day. Schools cancelled. I was getting a little concerned, but my husband assured me all would be well.
When I went to my English class the evening the typhoon was coming, my students told me that this typhoon was being compared to the one that hit ten years ago. It was a large typhoon that came on shore on the other side of the Nagoya harbor. Many people died because of flooding and being swept away. We don’t live that close to the river and we live on a small mountain, so probably people would flee in our direction. We could stay put. We are pretty close to the harbor. We would be all right from the storm surge, but I was very concerned about the winds. We live in an old house that was built by Americans. Japanese houses are equipped with storm shutters that can be closed for extra protection in a storm. Our house does not have these. It creaks and groans on a breezy day. Each room of the house has 2 sets of large windows. I wondered if they would withstand what was coming. I was told of a school in our neighborhood that we could evacuate to.
After class, I talked to my husband. We went on the internet and checked American news sources. We discovered that the typhoon was downgraded to a category 1. We also found out what that meant in terms of the speed of the winds. We thought about going to my husband’s parent. They live in the mountains further inland. It was raining quite heavily and my husband thought it would be more dangerous for us to try to travel at this point than to ride it out, so we stayed put. We decided that if things got bad we could huddle in our stairwell. There are no windows there.
We all went to bed. The storm was supposed to come on shore around 4 a.m. and peak at 6 a.m. I prayed that if we needed to move we would wake up. At 3:30 a.m. I woke up to the sound of the window above my head rattling. I looked out the window and could tell that the winds were coming. Things were blowing around, but not any more than during a thunderstorm. I couldn’t go back to sleep with all the noise from the windows. I decided to go downstairs and lay on the couch. Our dog was going crazy. I picked her up and could feel her heart beating 100 mph! I had to laugh. (Our dog is slightly neurotic!) I turned on the news and watched even though I couldn’t understand most of what they were saying. I could hear the winds picking up. At 4:30 a.m., the newspaper man rode up the street on his motorbike. I thought he was nuts!!! I later learned that one of the deaths from this typhoon was a newspaper man whose motorbike struck a tree that was in the road.
At 5 a.m., the reception on the TV went out. The winds were swirling around the house. Windows and doors were rattling. The fan in the kitchen was constantly opening and slamming shut. We moved to the stairwell. The winds kept up like that for an hour or so. I kept waiting for it to get worse. It didn’t. We had fun in that stairwell and upper hallway. Bible verses that I had memorized on fear flooded my mind. I was humming in my mind, “Till the storm passes over…” The fear over what my students told me was gone. We were laughing at our crazy dog and texting our son in America. We did look out a window once and saw a big tree on the hill behind us bent in half. At 6 a.m. the sun rose and we went back to bed. The worst was over. It reminded me of when Hurricane Hugo passed over Greenville in 1989.
Later that morning, we went out to survey the damage. There was none in our area. The big tree on the hill was still standing. My garden is in sad shape, but I like to work in it, so no problem. There were a couple of inches of water in the yard, but it’s gone now. There was no electricity at the church. This was strange since our house had it. My husband finally discovered the problem. The light under the eaves in the back of the church was filled with water. Every time he turned the breaker on, it would go off again. He took care of the water, disconnected the light and the power is back on. By lunchtime, the sun was shining and the sky was a clear, beautiful blue. We had strong breezes that helped dry everything out.
As I thought back over this experience, several thoughts came to mind. First, was the boy who cried wolf! But then I changed my thoughts. We live on an island. You never know what a typhoon is going to do, so it is best to be prepared for the worst and be thankful when it doesn’t happen. I learned where to get the facts that we need to make an educated decision about what we should do to prepare. I learned not to listen to other people’s fears. But above all, I learned to TRUST GOD! After all, it is His hand that stirs the waters and the same hand holds me.