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Voter turnout may suffer on Sunday as Typhoon Lan threatens Japan with flooding rain, mudslides

By Kristina Pydynowski, AccuWeather senior meteorologist
By Adam Douty, AccuWeather senior meteorologist
October 22, 2017, 5:29:14 AM EDT

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The dangers to lives and property will already be mounting across Japan on Sunday’s Election Day prior to Lan slamming onshore at night.

Typhoon Lan is currently the equivalent of a Category 4 hurricane in the eastern Pacific and Atlantic oceans as it churns northward toward Japan.

While Lan may be past its peak intensity when it slams into the southern coast of central Honshu on Sunday night (local time), residents should not let their guard down as Lan can still be the equivalent of a Category 1 or 2 hurricane at landfall.

Lan Oct 22 2017 AM

As bands of torrential rain and strong winds whip the Ryukyu Islands, moisture from Lan interacting with a front brought rain across southern and central Japan on Saturday. This was well ahead of the worst conditions from Lan which will occur during the second half of the weekend.

The rain will continue to spread northward through Sunday, threatening to impact voter turnout on Election Day. Candidates from old and new parties are vying for a majority of the 465 seats in the Lower House of the Diet (Japan’s equivalent to the House of Representatives in the United States), according to NHK.

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Detailed forecast for Tokyo

Local authorities in Okinawa pushed up Election Day to Saturday for some remote islands, Reuters said.

While the strongest winds from Lan will still be offshore, there may still be enough rain pouring down on Sunday to lead to areas of flooding and mudslides from eastern Kyushu into Shikoku and western and southern Honshu.

Japan election

Road closures and other travel disruptions may force voters to find other means to get to their polling stations. The earlier residents can cast their votes, the better in many communities as conditions will deteriorate through the day.

Gusty winds will also increase into Sunday night across western Japan and the southern coast. Sporadic power outages may result, as well as coastal flooding at high tide. This includes along the northern coast of Kyushu and Honshu as the winds drive water from the Sea of Japan onshore.

“Voters with no party affiliation tend not to go and vote (under the bad weather),” Tomoaki Iwai, political science professor at Nihon University, told Reuters. “So parties that are dependent on the general mood of the voters at a given time, like the Party of Hope, are set to suffer.

Party of Hope is led by Tokyo’s Governor Yuriko Koike.

Japan voting

People walk past campaign posters for the upcoming lower house election in Tokyo on Saturday, Oct. 14, 2017. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)

Iwai also stated to Reuters that some supporters of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party may also stay home and not vote amid the adverse weather as they believe, based on recent polls, that the ruling party is favored to win by a significant margin.

More lives and property will be threatened on Sunday evening and into Sunday night as Lan presses into and across Honshu. Lan is a large storm with a far-reaching field of damaging winds.

While gusty winds can continue to drive water onshore along most of Japan's coastline, an inundating and dangerous storm surge will be highest along Honshu’s southern coast, near and east of where Lan makes landfall.

Torrential rain will further inundate Shikoku and Honshu during this time, accompanied by damaging winds that will be capable of downing numerous trees and causing some damage to structures. Residents should prepare for possible days of power outages.

Wind gusts of 145-175 km/h (90-110 mph) will batter the south-central coast of Honshu as Lan makes landfall. The coast of southeastern Honshu, including Chiba prefecture, may face gusts around 145 km/h (90 mph).

"Gusts of 97-130 km/h (60-80 mph) are also likely in Tokyo during the height of Lan," AccuWeather Meteorologist Rob Richards said.

However, there can be locally higher gusts and stronger winds above the surface that can blow out windows of high-rises. The resultant falling glass can create a deadly situation for people walking on the streets below.

Lan impacts

Before Lan departs on Monday afternoon, rainfall totals will average 150-300 mm (6-12 inches) from eastern Kyushu to central Honshu with the potential for widespread totals in excess of 300 mm (12 inches) along the southern coast and in the mountains.

"A few communities may even be inundated with 500 mm (20 inches) of rain," Richards said.

Life-threatening flooding and mudslides may result. Roads and bridges could become destroyed as streams and rivers turn into raging and dangerous waterways. Some communities could be cut off from aid for a time after the storm.

The heaviest rain is expected to pour down south and west of Tokyo. However, Richards still anticipates 125-200 mm (5-8 inches) to inundate the capital and lead to flash flooding.

While conditions will improve on Monday in Tokyo, commuters may still experience slow travel due to lingering impacts from Lan.

Windswept and soaking rain will spread across Hokkaido on Monday as Lan presses back into the Pacific Ocean, where it will transition to a non-tropical storm by Tuesday.

“As Lan hooks up with colder air from the north, snow will fall in the higher terrain of Hokkaido,” AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist John Gresiak said.

Calmer weather will dominate most of Japan the rest of the upcoming week, aiding cleanup and power restoration crews.

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