Travel Alert for U.S. Citizens: Hurricane and Typhoon Season 2017

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The Department of State alerts U.S. citizens to the Hurricane and Typhoon Seasons in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, the Caribbean, and the Gulf of Mexico. Hurricane and Typhoon Season will last through November 2017, though most tropical cyclones typically develop between May and October.  The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recommends that those in hurricane- and typhoon-prone regions begin preparations for the upcoming seasons now.  This Travel Alert expires on December 1, 2017.

The Atlantic Basin, including the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea:  Hurricane Season in the Atlantic began June 1.  The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center expects a 45 percent chance of an above-normal season, a 35 percent chance of a near-normal season, and only a 20 percent chance of a below-normal season.  NOAA predicts a 70 percent chance of 11 to 17 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of those, five to nine are predicted to strengthen to a hurricane (winds of 74 mph or higher) and two to four are expected to become major hurricanes (with winds of 111 mph or higher, ranking Category 3, 4 or 5 on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale).  NOAA recommends that those in hurricane-prone regions begin preparations for the upcoming season now.

The Eastern Pacific:  Hurricane season in the Eastern Pacific began on May 15, 2017.  NOAA expects a near- or above-normal season, with a 40 percent chance of an above-normal season, a 40 percent chance of a near-normal season, and a 20 percent chance of a below-normal season.  NOAA predicts a 70 percent chance of 14 to 20 named storms, of which six to eleven are expected to become hurricane strength.  Of those, three to seven are expected to become major hurricanes (Category 3, 4, or 5 on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale).

Western and Central Pacific:  Typhoon season in the Western and Central Pacific runs from June 1 to November 30.  NOAA’s Central Pacific Hurricane Center (CPHC) predicts an 80 percent chance of a near or above normal season.  CPHC expects five to eight tropical cyclones to affect the central Pacific this season.  For information on typhoon warnings, please consult the Joint Typhoon Warning Center in Honolulu, the National Weather Service’s Central Pacific Hurricane Center, and the Regional Specialized Meteorological Center (RSMC) Tokyo – Typhoon Center.

In the past, U.S. citizens were forced to delay travel (including return travel to the United States) due to infrastructure damage to airports and limited flight availability.  If you are planning to travel to regions of the world often affected by hurricanes, typhoons, or cyclones, visit our Tropical Storm Season – Know before You Go page for more information about the potential dangers and inconveniences associated with your travel before finalizing plans.

If you live in or are traveling to storm-prone regions, prepare by organizing a kit in a waterproof container that includes a supply of bottled water, non-perishable food items, a battery-powered or hand-crank radio, any medications taken regularly, and vital documents, especially your passport and other identification.  Emergency shelters often provide only very basic resources and may have limited medical and food supplies.  For additional tips, visit NOAA and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

For further information:

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Stay Connected in Japan

Recent events in and around Japan including natural disasters should remind U.S. citizens living and traveling in Japan of the importance of staying connected and having access to late breaking local emergency information.  The following suggestions will help keep you and your loved ones informed and safe during your time in Japan.

Crisis Information is Practically Everywhere in Japan

During your time in Japan, you may see alerts for events as diverse as heavy rain, excessive heat, landslides, and earthquakes.  Make the U.S. Embassy’s website your first stop: it has an extensive list of emergency resources.

The Japanese government uses a variety of methods to reach people in affected regions.  For example, during a Japanese television program, an alarm may chime and an alert may scroll across the top of the screen for a minute or so.  In some communities, loudspeakers outside may blast warnings as well.  These are parts of the Japanese Government’s “J-Alert” system that sends crisis information to the public. J-Alert even pushes messages to radios and cellphones.  The Japan Meteorological Agency, a primary source for many of the crisis alerts in Japan, has a webpage in English.  If you can’t understand Japanese but are hearing or seeing these messages, pay attention and ask people around you what it means – it may be very helpful!

Establish Your Personal Social Network – Get to Know People Around You

Whether you have been living in Japan one day or 1,000 days, many times the best information comes from people in your network of local and expatriate friends, acquaintances, and business contacts.  This is especially important if you are unable to read and speak Japanese.  If you are a tourist, your social network could be as simple as the front desk in your hotel or even the cashier at the local coffee shop!

Social Media Can Be a Supplemental Source of Useful Information

Social Media platforms like Twitter and Facebook can be useful for timely updates.  Visit the websites of the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo or the U.S. Consulate near you to learn how to sign up for our official feeds.  These can be helpful supplements to information sent through the Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program – STEP.  See the end of this message for a list of the Consulates in Japan, their locations, and their contact information.

Japanese Government–Provided Safety Information is Available in English Through an App

The Government of Japan’s National Tourism Organization (JNTO) has made available an Android and iPhone app called “Safety tips” that pushes information alerts to users about disasters in multiple languages, including English.  For more information about this app, check out the JNTO website.

Your Smartphone May Be a Vital Life Line

If you have a smartphone with a contract to a local Japanese mobile provider, you may already be able to receive safety alerts as a text message.  Check with your local provider, as this typically requires a unique email address associated with your mobile account.  If you do have this capability through your provider, you may be able to also get this information in English.

Information on the Radio

Japan’s cellular network is very resilient and can be expected to remain in service even after a major earthquake with minimal interruptions; however, if cell service isn’t available after a disaster, you can receive emergency information in English over local radio stations such as AFN (American Forces Network) or InterFM (English language news alerts).  Some stations to monitor are:

  • AFN Tokyo (810kHz, AM)
  • AFN Iwakuni (1575kHz, AM)
  • AFN Sasebo (1575kHz, AM)
  • AFN Okinawa (89.1MHz, FM)

Personal Preparedness Starts at Home

Once a disaster happens, it’s too late to prepare. Get your “Go Bag” together and work with your family to come up with a plan to communicate and find each other in the case of a crisis.  Don’t forget about your pets when making plans!  For ideas on how to stock your “Go Bag” or emergency kit, visit FEMA’s website.  Tourists should visit the Department of State’s Traveler’s Checklist for ideas on how to have a safe trip.

Disaster Prevention (Bousai) Information May Be Available from Your Local Government

Your local municipality may already have Disaster Prevention (“Bousai” or  “Bosai” in Japanese) information ready for residents and visitors online.  Prefectural, city, and even ward-office disaster prevention and preparedness information may be in English or have links to other useful resources.  Below is a selected list of disaster prevention websites for major population centers in Japan.  There may be many more resources available to you.  Do a web search with the word “bousai” and the town or region you are interested in, and you may even find information in English!

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Dennis A. Amith