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Typhoon (JMA)
Category 5 Super Typhoon (SSHS)
Formed October 4, 1979
Dissipated October 19, 1979
Highest winds 10-minute sustained:

280 km/h (175 mph) 1-minute sustained: 360 km/h (225 mph)

Lowest pressure 870 mbar (hPa; 25.69 inHg)(Worldwide record low)
Fatalities 86 direct, 13 indirect
Total: 99 fatalities
Areas affected Guam, Japan
Part of the 1979 Pacific typhoon season

Typhoon Tip (international designation: 7920, JTWC designation: 23W, PAGASA name: Warling) was the largest and most intense tropical cyclone on record. The nineteenth tropical storm and twelfth typhoon of the 1979 Pacific typhoon season, Tip developed out of a disturbance in the monsoon trough on October 4 near Pohnpei. Initially, a tropical storm to its northwest hindered the development and motion of Tip, though after it tracked further north Tip was able to intensify. After passing Guam, it rapidly intensified and reached peak winds of 305 km/h (190 mph)[nb 1] and a worldwide record low sea-level pressure of 870 mbar (hPa, 25.69 inHg) on October 12. At its peak strength, it was also the largest tropical cyclone on record with a diameter of 2,220 km (1,380 mi). It slowly weakened as it continued west-northwestward, and later turned to the northeast under the influence of an approaching trough. Tip made landfall on southern Japan on October 19, and became an extratropical cyclone shortly thereafter.

U.S. Air Force Reconnaissance flew into the typhoon for 60 missions, making Tip one of the most closely observed tropical cyclones.[1] Rainfall from the typhoon breached a flood-retaining wall at a United States Marine Corps training camp in the Kanagawa Prefecture of Japan, leading to a fire which killed 13 Marines and injured 68. Elsewhere in the country, the typhoon led to widespread flooding and 42 deaths, and offshore shipwrecks left 44 killed or missing.

Meteorological history

Three circulations developed within the monsoon trough that extended from the Philippines to the Marshall Islands. A disturbance to the southwest of Guam developed into Tropical Storm Roger on October 3, and later on the same day the tropical disturbance which would later become Typhoon Tip developed to the south of Pohnpei. Strong flow from across the equator was drawn into the circulation of Roger, initially preventing significant development of the disturbance that would become Tip. Despite the unfavorable air pattern, the tropical disturbance near Pohnpei gradually organized as it moved westward. Due to the large-scale circulation pattern into Tropical Storm Roger, the tropical disturbance moved erratically and slowly executed a cyclonic loop to the southeast of Chuuk. A Reconnaissance Aircraft flight into the system late on October 4 confirmed the existence of a closed low-level circulation, and early on October 5 the Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC) issued its first warning on Tropical Depression Twenty-Three.[1]

While executing a loop near Chuuk, the tropical depression intensified into Tropical Storm Tip, though the storm failed to organize significantly due to the influence of Tropical Storm Roger. Reconnaissance aircraft provided the track of the surface circulation, since satellite imagery estimated the center was located about 60 km (38 mi) from its true position. After drifting erratically for several days, Tip began a steady northwest motion on October 8. By that time, Tropical Storm Roger had become an extratropical cyclone, resulting in the southerly flow to be entrained into Tip. Additionally, an area of the tropical upper tropospheric trough moved to the north of Guam, providing an excellent outflow channel north of Tip. Initially, the storm was predicted to continue northwestward and make landfall on Guam, though early on October 9 it turned to the west, passing about 45 km (28 mi) south of the island. Later that day, Tip intensified to attain typhoon status.[1]

After peaking in intensity, Tip weakened to a 230 km/h (145 mph) typhoon and remained at that intensity for several days as it continued west-northwestward. For five days after reaching its peak strength, the average radius of winds stronger than 55 km/h (35 mph) extended over 1,100 km (685 mi). On October 17, Tip began to steadily weaken as its size reduced, and the next day it began recurving northeastward under the influence of a mid-level trough. After passing about 65 km (45 mi) east of Okinawa, it accelerated its forward motion to 75 km/h (46 mph). On October 19 Tip made landfall on the Japanese island of Honshū with winds of about 130 km/h (80 mph). The typhoon continued rapidly northeastward through the country and became an extratropical cyclone over northern Honshū a few hours after moving ashore.[1] The extratropical remnant of Tip continued northeastward and gradually weakened, crossing the International Date Line on October 22. It was last observed near the Aleutian Islands near Alaska.[2]

Impact

Heavy rainfall from the typhoon breached a flood-retaining wall at Camp Fuji, a training facility for the United States Marine Corps near Yokosuka.[4] Marines inside the camp weathered the storm inside huts situated at the base of a hill which housed a fuel farm. The breach led to hoses being dislodged from two rubber storage bladders, releasing large quantities of fuel. The fuel flowed down the hill and was ignited by a heater used to warm one of the huts.[5][6][7][8] The resultant fire killed thirteen Marines, injuring 68,[1] and causing moderate damage to the facility. The facility's barracks were destroyed,[4] along with fifteen huts and several other structures.[6] Fire departments from nearby locations arrived within two hours.[5] The barracks were rebuilt,[4] and a memorial was established for those who lost their lives in the fire.[6]

Most intense Pacific typhoons
Typhoon Season Pressure
hPa inHg
1 Tip 1979 870 25.7
2 Nora 1973 875 25.8
June 1975
4 Ida 1958 877 25.9
5 Kit 1966 880 26.0
Rita 1978
Vanessa 1984
8 Nina 1953 885 26.1
Joan 1959
Irma 1971
Forrest 1983
Megi 2010
Source:JMA Typhoon Best Track Analysis
Information for the North Western Pacific Ocean.[2]

During recurvature, Typhoon Tip passed about 65 km (40 mi) east of Okinawa. Sustained winds reached 72 km/h (44 mph), with gusts to 112 km/h (69 mph). Sustained wind velocities in Japan are not known, though they were estimated at minimal typhoon strength. The passage of the typhoon through the region resulted in millions of dollars in damage to the agricultural and fishing industries of the country.[1] Eight ships were grounded or sunk by Tip, leaving 44 fishermen dead or unaccounted for. A Chinese freighter broke in half as a result of the typhoon, though its crew of 46 were rescued.[3] The rainfall led to over 600 mudslides throughout the mountainous regions of Japan and flooded more than 22,000 homes; 42 people died throughout the country, with another 71 missing and 283 injured.[3] River embankments broke in 70 places, destroying 27 bridges, while about 105 dikes were destroyed. Following the storm, at least 11,000 people were left homeless.[9][10] Transportation in the country was disrupted; 200 trains and 160 domestic airline flights were canceled.[11] Tip was described as the most severe storm to strike Japan in 13 years.[12]

Records and meteorological statistics

The typhoon was also the most intense tropical cyclone on record with a pressure of 870 mbar (hPa, 25.69 inHg), 6 mbar (hPa, 0.17 inHg) lower than previous record set by Super Typhoon June in 1975.[1][17][18] The records set by Tip still stand. However, due to the end of routine Reconnaissance Aircraft in the western Pacific Ocean in August 1987, modern researchers questioned if Tip is the strongest on record. After a detailed study, three researchers determined three typhoons, Angela in 1995, Megi in 2010 and Gay in 1992, maintained higher Dvorak numbers than Tip, and believed that one or both of the two may have been more intense than Tip.[19] Also, Cyclone Monica of 2006 was rated at 869 mb by Dvorak classifications, although this was dismissed as the source was unofficial. So far, due to lack of direct observations, it is unknown if Tip maintains the world record.[19] Despite the intensity and damage, the name was not retired. As such, the name was reused in 1983, 1986, and 1989.[2]

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