There’s no way around it: Typhoon Hagibis was one of the most historically terrible storms in Japan’s recorded history. Torrential rain came pouring down for hours before the storm had even arrived, swelling our rivers into their floodplains before the typhoon itself made landfall. We watched the river on which we live rise to a level to which we had never seen, realizing that the worst part of the storm had not even arrived yet. How high would the river go? Would it overflow the levy across from us? Would it flood our home and neighborhood? How how would the water rise? Past our second floor? Would we be safe at home — or anywhere else, for that matter?
Growing up in Illinois, I am accustomed to powerful thunderstorms and terrible tornadoes. Those types of storms do a huge amount of damage in a localized area. But earthquakes and typhoons are very different in that they affect a much bigger area and have the potential to do much more damage. When Typhoon Hagibis finally made landfall (for it had been raining for nearly a day already), an earthquake shook the whole Tokyo region. It was as if the natural disasters of Japan got together and planned an onslaught the likes of which Japan had not yet seen.
A huge percentage of Japan was under high alert due to the size of this storm, and especially the Tama River on which we live. By the time the main part of Hagibis made landfall, the river had already swelled up into its floodplain. As Hagibis pounded us, it began to swell up to the levy that divides the floodplain from the whole city of Kawasaki. The levy was the last line of defense between the raging river and our neighborhood of tens of thousands of residents.
Then reports began to come in. The Tama River overflowed a few kilometers above us. It overflowed on the other bank of the river, right across from us. More reports came in, how it overflowed into a hospital just down from us. We prepared ourselves for the worst. We took everything of value and moved it to our second floor. The storm continued to pound us harder and harder.
Then at 9:30 PM, everything suddenly became calm. The wind died down, the rain turned to a sprinkle. I thought that maybe the eye of the storm had reached us, but to my huge relief, the radar showed that the storm had completely passed. I could see out my window that the river was right at the edge of going over the levy.
But the storms’ passing did not signify that the danger was over. Far from it. Nearly a foot of rain (25 cm) fell over the entire state at once, in some places reaching nearly a meter of rain! All that rain still had to make its way down the river. It seemed as if it would surely overflow. I stayed watching the river from our second story window, keeping an eye of the river. I was prepared for the worst, and over the 30 minutes, the waters became rapids, violently making way downstream. But the level did not rise. Another 30 minutes passed, and the raging waters continued without rising. After two hours, to my amazement, the river began to descend. After three hours it had gone down several meters — enough that I felt like I could finally go to sleep.
When I woke up at 6:00 AM and looked at the window, I was amazed. The water had retreated, The sun was out and shining and people were out and about, beholding the damage. All around us, the river had overflowed, but never enough to flood our neighborhood or our house. We were extremely grateful to God for His protection. The reports that came in from other parts of Japan were not nearly as good — so many entire cities were flooded. Dozens of people were killed, nearly all of them by issues related to flooding. One person, in a town a couple kilometers away, died as the water quickly rose in their ground-floor apartment. The cities in which we live are all built on the river’s floodplain with dikes to control the river. Hence the danger when an epic storm like this happens.
And even though we are heartbroken for the loss of a number of people and their families, we are grateful because it could have easily been much more devastating than it was. God is able to protect his children wherever they are — and in many different ways. All of our Paz team was kept safe. Our church family was safe. None of the neighborhoods in which our team lives was flooded or affected. God is good! We pray that even the places that were affected would experience the goodness of God in the days and months to come. Thank you for your thoughts and prayers!