A first hand account of a typhoon landfall from 1949

In today’s society of 24-hour news and reporting via satellite, it is not uncommon to have unending first hand coverage of a hurricane, tropical cyclone, or typhoon as it makes landfall. In 1949, however, such an account was quite rare. At NCDC (NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center) we have historical records produced by the Air Force during the period when they flew aircraft into typhoons in the western North Pacific. One such report is the “Consolidated Report” which they produced for each typhoon. This report often includes the analysis of current conditions and forecast maps. It contains summaries of reconnaissance flights, communications, meteorological condition summaries and often a damage report.

Damage from 1949 Typhoon Allyn

Damage from 1949 Typhoon Allyn

One typhoon from 1949 – Typhoon Allyn – passed quite close to Guam. The forecasters there included in their “Consolidated Report: Typhoon ‘Allyn’ November 14-24, 1949” a rare addition: a running diary of the typhoon’s approach to Guam. Over the next few days, I’ll be reproducing the diary here for those interested in a first hand description of the landfall conditions. While this doesn’t contain video feeds, or interviews with local residents, it provides insight into the strength of these violent storms and those who had to work through such conditions. This reproduction of that report is dedicated to those who provided forecasts to our armed services and helped protect lives and property during those years of service at Guam and other forecast offices in the Pacific.

Page 4: “During the morning of 17 November, the wind strengthened to 30 knots [34 m.p.h.], and the dark sky and falling barometer gave sure indications of the advent of the storm. Arrangements had been made for Clark [another Air Force Base] to accept forecast responsibility. Also, Haneda had been instructed to perform the functions of the Typhoon Warning Center, for it appeared certain that Guam’s contact with the [outside world] was to be terminated abruptly and for an indefinite period. Acting on instructions to retain responsibility as long as possible, the Center almost overplayed its hand. The plan called for the Center to issue bulletin 13 [bulletins are their term for a warning] by 17:30Z. Clark was to issue bulletin 14; however 15 minutes before the bulletin 13 was ready for transmission, the communication station ceased operations. It was only by special arrangement that this final message was transmitted. By 04:00Z, 17 November, the surface wind was near 50 knots [57 m.p.h.] making the weather station an unhealthy place due to the proximity of a 40 foot radar tower; consequently, all personnel evacuated to typhoon shelters.

“Due to the fact that the weather station at Harmon Air Force Base was located in a typhoon proof structure, it was manned throughout the storm. The following remarks have been taken from a log kept by forecasters who operated that station, beginning 17 November at 11:45K (01:45Z).”

The remainder of this diary chronicles the ensuing 12 hours of the typhoon’s interaction with Guam.

To be continued…

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About K Knapp

I am a meteorologist at NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, NC. My research interests include using satellite data to observe hurricanes, clouds, and other climate variables. *******Disclaimer******* The opinions expressed in these blogs are mine only. They do not necessarily reflect the official views or policies of NOAA, Department of Commerce, or the US Government.

5 responses to “A first hand account of a typhoon landfall from 1949”

  1. Steven Castoldi says :

    As an 11 yr old Navy brat, I lived on Saipan in 1949 and am wondering if this is the typhoon we experienced. We were evacuated from our quonset hut into a concrete bunker for the duration. Couldn’t find my dog when we left, but found her after the storm, muddied but OK.

    • K Knapp says :

      It likely is. The map of 1949 Tropical Cyclones shows Allyn as the strongest in that area. What an experience that must have been!

    • Bettye Berg says :

      I, too, was a Navy brat on Guam during Typhoon Allyn. We likely went to the same school and I’d love to share pictures from then. One picture I have shows our Quonset hut classrooms collapsed and the insides all in shambles.

  2. Zack Taylor says :

    I was in Guam Nov 1949 with United States Marine Corps Camp Catland (?) we were taken to a navy ammunition magazine for the duration of the storm.

    When we return to camp 90% of our quonset huts were destroyed…

  3. Zack Taylor says :

    Was stationed in Guam November 1949 with the united states Marine Corps when typhoon Allyn destroyed 90% of our Quonset huts..

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