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Kadena cleans up after $8M mess left by typhoon

Oct. 12, 2012 - 04:01PM   |   Last Updated: Oct. 12, 2012 - 04:01PM  |  
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Kadena Air Base in Okinawa has gotten used to seeing typhoons swing in its direction, but the recent onslaught from Typhoon Jelawat wreaked more havoc than usual and left damage that could take months to repair. Jelawat struck the base at the end of September and caused about $8.3 million in damage, said Maj. Christopher Anderson, a spokesman with the 18th Wing.

"The majority of the cost is from roof damage on the main base and in family housing areas. On the main base, one set of hangar doors was blown in, damaging both the doors and some ground equipment," Anderson said in an email. "The storm also tore off the roofs from an aircraft ground equipment maintenance facility and from a force support squadron warehouse."

No families had to be moved to temporary housing because of the damage, Anderson said. The typhoon also did not prompt any permanent change-of-station moves or temporary duty assignments to Kadena.

"Kadena civil engineers responded quickly and secured all affected facilities within 72 hours of the storm," Anderson said. "Permanent repairs will take several months to finalize."

Jelawat launched 23 inches of rain in 24 hours along with winds between 85 and 115 mph, officials said. The winds flipped cars and sent trash dumpsters airborne.

The typhoon was the seventh storm to hit Okinawa this year, according to a news story from the 18th Wing. Initially, the storm was expected to hit China, but then veered to the north toward Okinawa. On Sept. 29, the storm's eye was 10 miles from Kadena.

In a video posted on the base's website, Airman 1st Class Eric Gandall said the typhoon was the worst storm he's lived through during the year he's lived on Okinawa.

"I saw a dumpster go flying and take out the back of a car," he said.

Because the typhoon was much stronger than the other storms this year, the damage is more extensive, 18th Civil Engineering Squadron commander Lt. Col. Bryan Opperman said in the news story.

"It's going to take more time to get the base recovered," Opperman said. "We appreciate people's patience and understanding."

Typhoon season in the Western and Central Pacific lasts from June 1 to Nov. 30 with an average of 31 typhoons per season, about half of which have the potential to cause severe damage, according to the State Department.

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