Can Asian Typhoons Hit the USA?

Major tropical storms with high wind speeds and heavy rain have different names in different parts of the world. They are hurricanes in the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico, and around Baja California. But In the western Pacific they are called typhoons. We generally think of hurricanes impacting the Caribbean, the eastern seaboard, and the gulf coast; and typhoons striking the Philippines, Taiwan, and the southern coast of China.

But once in a while, a typhoon that starts in Asia, instead of following the normal southern track, will drift north into the jet stream and travel 5,000 miles (8300km) on a path south of the Aleutians, to eventually hit the west coast of the United States.

That’s what happened on October 15, 2016, when Typhoon Songda slammed into the coasts of British Columbia, Washington, and Oregon.

Typhoon Songda started as a low-pressure system in warm tropical waters southwest of Hawaii on October 3. It drifted west toward Japan, where it developed into a tropical storm on October 8. It strengthened into a typhoon on October 10. According to the Japan Meteorology Agency, Songda reached its peak southeast of Japan as a Category 4 typhoon on October 11 with wind speeds topping 150 mph {250km/h).

Typhoon Songda then drifted north into the jet stream and traveled at the amazing speed of 60 mph (95km/h) eastward to strike the Pacific Northwest 4 days later. By the time the storm reached the US west coast, its winds had diminished to 50-60 mph (85-100km/h). No storm-related fatalities or injuries were reported, but power lines went down and transformers shorted out, leaving thousands of people in Washington and Oregon without electricity for a short period of time.

According to the meteorologists at the University of Washington, typhoons don’t hit the US mainland very often, but they can cause a lot of damage when they do. Seven of the most severe storms to hit the Seattle area over the years were attributed to typhoons. The most damaging was Typhoon Freda that struck the Washington coastline on Columbus Day, October 12, 1962. That storm packed wind speeds of 110 mph (185km/h). 50 people died in the storm and the wind flattened vast areas of forest.

The US being susceptible to both hurricanes and typhoons is reminiscent of the old story of the fighter who says, “If my right fist don’t getcha, my left one will.”









Gordon About Gordon

In writing his novel TSUNAMI, Gordon Gumpertz did extensive research on plate tectonics and seafloor geology to give this work of fiction an authentic atmosphere.


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