Earlier today (May 6, 2012), a rare tornado struck near Tokyo, Japan. The tornado was reported 60 kilometers (40 miles) northeast of Tokyo, in the city of Tsukuba. The thunderstorm that produced the tornado also triggered strong winds, cloud-to-ground lightning, and hail. The tornado picked up vehicles and tossed them like toys. Roofs were torn off houses and power lines were knocked over as the twister pushed through the city. Dozens of people were injured due to the storm, and one person died.
Watch these clip of the tornado pushing through Tsukuba, Japan:
The storm pushed through a relatively rural area, but it caused serious roof damage, smashed balconies off of apartment complexes, and bent telephone poles. As of now, at least 30 people were injured from this tornado. One person, a 14-year-old boy, died from this storm. The strong winds and lightning created thousands of power outages across the region. The Tokyo Electric Power Company said 24,000 homes were without electricity, and are currently working on restoring the power within the next few days.
Tornadoes in Japan are rare, but not unheard of. The most common time of the year for Japan to witness or experience tornadoes is during the summer and fall months, in the midst of typhoon season. Typhoons can spin up small tornadoes within the storms, and are likely the main reason Japan experiences tornadoes. However, the dynamics for tornadoes were in place and an isolated storm – with no association with a tropical system – was able to form and spawn a tornado in the region today. An area of low pressure to the northwest of Japan provided enough spin in the atmosphere to form a few strong storms across the region. The most common area around the world to see tornadoes are in the United States.
Bottom line: A tornado struck 60 kilometers northeast of Tokyo, Japan in the city of Tsukuba. The intensity of the storm is unknown at this time, but based on the images, it was probably within an EF-1 to EF-3 range as roofs were torn off, automobiles were tossed and thrown around, and poles were bent and twisted. At least 30 people were injured and a 14-year-old boy died after the tornado swept through the area. Tornadoes are rare in Japan, but not unheard of. Typically, tornadoes can form during typhoon season as systems near the Japanese coast. There was no typhoon associated with today’s tornado, however.
Matt Daniel is weekend Meteorologist for 13WMAZ (CBS) in Macon, Georgia, and founder of the blog Athens GA Weather. He's a self-described "big weather and music geek" and has produced weather content for CNN, MSN Weather and EarthSky. He has a passion for helping to keep people safe when severe weather strikes and says if you don't have a NOAA Weather Radio ... you should get one.