The term "typhoon" refers to a tropical, cyclonic storm that originates in the western Pacific Ocean (in the Atlantic, this type of storm is referred to as a hurricane). Typhoons are characterized by large masses of clouds, which spiral around a central point, or eye. Infamous for their destructive powers, typhoons can generate winds of more than 75 miles/hour and have been known to cause flash floods with their intensive rainfall. Buildings and infrastructure, trees and other vegetation, watercraft and water operations, and human and animal life can all be affected.
Buildings and Infrastructure
The two most destructive forces associated with typhoons are wind and rain. According to the Green Fun website, typhoon winds can affect buildings and other structures in two ways: through direct force and through projectiles. Direct force is when a wind gust slams directly into a building or structure and causes physical damage, such as when wind blows the roof off a home. Wind can also inflict damage by picking up and launching debris and other items, such as tree branches and building materials, into buildings and other structures. The heavy and persistent rainfall that typhoons bring can also have devastating effects. In addition to making homes uninhabitable, the flooding associated with typhoons can make roads impassable, which can cripple rescue and aid efforts.
Trees and Other Vegetation
Typhoons can also affect the natural environment, and cause harm to trees and other vegetation, including crops that communities may rely on for sustenance or trade, or both. Strong winds can snap branches; detach and injure leaves, flowers, fruits and seeds; and uproot trees and plants. Flooding can produce over-saturation and drown out vegetation. Typhoons also deposit large quantities of salt onto plant life, which can have adverse effects. According to the Green Fun website, trees and vegetation in urban areas are more susceptible to typhoon damage, as they tend to grow in poor, restricted soil conditions.
Watercraft and Water Operations
In addition to causing mayhem on land, typhoons are also well-known for stirring up the seas. Individuals on watercraft or those performing water operations (such as on oil rigs) not only have to contend with heavy winds and rain, but they have to deal with massive waves and, in general, turbulent water conditions. According to the Naval Historical Center website, typhoons have a history of causing harm out at sea, and this was especially true during World War II, when Pacific naval fleets were regularly battered by the storms. Today, fishing boats, cruise ships and other vessels rely on sophisticated technology to help them predict and avoid the devastating effects of typhoons.
Both human and animal life can be impacted, and ultimately taken, by the destructive forces of typhoons. While this can occur directly, such as if an individual is struck by debris or is caught in a building collapse, perhaps the more silent killer is the lack of available resources and infrastructure that results. According to the Facts and Details website, flooding from typhoons can destroy food stocks and supplies, and spread disease. When communities are cut off by typhoons, individuals may not be able to get the medical attention they so desperately need, and starvation becomes a big risk as well.