Typhoon Roke Forcing Mass Evacuations in Japan

September 20, 2011; 9:28 PM ET
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This satellite image from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows Typhoon Roke south of south-central Honshu, Japan early Tuesday morning.

Dangerous Typhoon Roke, now the equivalent of a Category 2 hurricane, is set to be the strongest typhoon to hit Japan so far this year.

Though the typhoon is expected to weaken to a Category 1 hurricane before roaring onshore over south-central Honshu Wednesday, it will unleash life-threatening flooding rain and mudslides. Near the point of landfall, wind damage could be severe.

Tokyo and areas that were devastated by the massive earthquake and tsunami earlier this year will be affected.

See videos of flooding from Roke in Japan

Between 6 and 10 inches (150 to 250 mm) of rain are predicted to inundate places from Fukushima on north through northeastern Honshu, perhaps including Sendai, according to AccuWeather.com Expert International Forecaster Jim Andrews.

As of Tuesday, almost 22 inches of rain fell in Tokushima, Japan in only 36 hours.

Officials have already advised or ordered nearly 1.2 million people in central and western Japan to evacuate, reported NHK World. The majority of those evacuation orders and advisories have been for the city of Nagoya, which has already picked up roughly 9 inches (230 mm) of rain ahead of the typhoon.

As of Wednesday midday local time (late Tuesday night EDT), Roke was located approximately 230 nautical miles southwest of Yokosuka, Japan. Maximum winds were at 104 mph (90kph), making the typhoon the equivalent of a dangerous Category 2 hurricane.

Roke is weakening Tuesday night into Wednesday but will plow into the south-central portion of Honshu Wednesday afternoon local time (early Wednesday morning EDT). The eye of the storm is expected to pass between Tokyo and Nagoya.

AccuWeather.com Tropical Expert Dan Kottlowski expects the storm to make landfall as the equivalent of a strong Category 1 hurricane.

Flight cancellations are a given for Tokyo's bustling international airports, if they are not shut down entirely.

"Winds will cause at least moderate damage along and near the direct path of Roke," stated Andrews. If Roke maintains its current track, Tokyo will fall in the northeastern quadrant of the storm, where winds are typically the strongest and rain is commonly the heaviest.

Once inland, Roke will weaken substantially. However, the threat for life-threatening flooding rain and mudslides will continue as it cuts across the middle of Japan, nearing the northeastern part of Honshu, which was devastated by earthquake and tsunami in March.

"Workers trying to control leakage into the basements of nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant may need to be evacuated ahead of the storm, with more than 6 inches of rain expected to fall over the reeling prefecture," warned AccuWeather.com meteorologist Bill Deger.

As of Tuesday evening local time (late Tuesday morning EDT), more than 16 inches (400 mm) of rain has fallen in the southern province of Miyazaki, which lies west of the storm's center. Nearly 13 inches (330 mm) has inundated Tokushima on the island of Shikoku.

With similar rainfall totals projected for Nagoya, there is a major concern for mudslides and flooding along a main river in that area.

Content contributed by AccuWeather.com meteorologists Bill Deger and Jim Andrews.

See videos of flooding from Roke in Japan

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