Typhoon Saomai (2006)

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Typhoon Saomai
Typhoon  ( JMA)
Category 5 super typhoon ( SSHS)
Saomai making landfall in Zhejiang, China

Saomai making landfall in Zhejiang, China
Formed August 4, 2006
Dissipated August 11, 2006
95  kt (175  km/h, 110  mph) (10-minute sustained)
140 kt (260 km/h, 160 mph) (1-minute sustained)
Lowest pressure 925  hPa ( mbar)
Damage $1.5 billion (2006 USD)
Fatalities At least 441 total
Mariana Islands, Philippines, Taiwan, southeast China
Part of the
2006 Pacific typhoon season

Typhoon Saomai (international designation: 0608, JTWC designation: 08W, designated Typhoon Juan by PAGASA and sometimes called Super Typhoon Saomai) was a powerful typhoon that affected areas of Taiwan and the east coast of the People's Republic of China. It was the eighth tropical storm, fifth typhoon, and third super typhoon of the 2006 Pacific typhoon season recognized by the Joint Typhoon Warning Centre. According to the Japan Meteorological Agency, Saomai was the seventh tropical storm and fifth typhoon of the season. The name "Saomai" was submitted by Vietnam, and is from the Vietnamese word for "morning star" (sao Mai), a reference to the planet Venus.

The typhoon brought heavy rain and wind to areas of the Mariana Islands, the Philippines, Taiwan, and the east coast of China, and was responsible for at least 441 deaths and $1.5 billion (2006 USD) in damage. Saomai affected many of the same areas affected by Tropical Storm Bilis a month earlier, and PRC forecasters described it as the most powerful typhoon to strike China since 1956. China Meteorological Administration claimed that Saomai was much stronger than typhoon No. 5612 in 1956. It was the strongest typhoon that ever occurred over China's offshore region as well as the most powerful typhoon ever to make landfall over mainland China.

Storm history

Storm path
Storm path

A tropical disturbance formed east of Chuuk on July 31 and gradually increased in organization over the next several days as it moved northwestward. The Joint Typhoon Warning Centre (JTWC) issued a Tropical Cyclone Formation Alert on the system on August 4, it was designated a tropical depression by both the JTWC and the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) later that day. The depression strengthened into a tropical storm on August 5, and the JMA designated it Tropical Storm Saomai.

Saomai continued moving toward the northwest and passed over the Mariana Islands on August 6 while continuing to strengthen, and was upgraded to a severe tropical storm by the JMA later that day. The storm then began organizing and intensifying more rapidly, becoming a typhoon early on August 7. Saomai moved into the area of responsibility of PAGASA on August 8, and was designated Typhoon Juan. Rapid intensification continued, and Saomai reached its peak intensity of 95  knots (175  km/h, 110  mph) on August 9.

After passing to the south of Okinawa, Saomai turned westward and brushed the northern coast of Taiwan Island early on August 10, before making landfall in Zhejiang Province later that day. Gradual weakening ensued as Saomai moved further inland, and it weakened into a tropical depression on August 11, dissipating later that day.


Typhoon Saomai as Super Typhoon 08W from the JTWC shortly after  reaching its peak intensity.
Typhoon Saomai as Super Typhoon 08W from the JTWC shortly after reaching its peak intensity.

The United States National Weather Service issued a tropical storm warning for Guam as Tropical Storm Saomai approached the island on August 6. Military bases in northern Guam entered Tropical Cyclone Condition of Readiness 1, meaning that winds of 50 knots or higher were expected within 12 hours. The rest of the island was placed under Condition of Readiness 2, meaning that such winds were possible within 24 hours. Several bases were temporarily closed.

The Central Weather Bureau of the Republic of China issued land and marine typhoon warnings for areas of northern Taiwan in anticipation of Saomai's outer bands. The warnings had been upgraded from lesser warnings issued for Tropical Storm Bopha, which made landfall in southern Taiwan the day before.

In China, 990,000 people in Zhejiang and 569,000 people in Fujian were evacuated to shelters prior to Saomai's landfall. Over 20,000 soldiers and police were mobilized to aid in cleanup and rescue efforts.


While still a tropical storm, Saomai passed over Guam, bringing rain and wind to the island, but no damage or deaths were reported.

Later, as with Tropical Storm Bilis a month earlier, Saomai's outer rainbands affected areas of the Philippines. Over 400 homes were destroyed by storm surge, and two people were killed. At least seven people were reported missing.

TRMM satellite image showing rainfall distribution within Typhoon Saomai at landfall.
TRMM satellite image showing rainfall distribution within Typhoon Saomai at landfall.

The core of the typhoon passed to the north of Taiwan, but the island still experienced heavy rain and wind that disrupted traffic and cancelled flights to and from Taipei. No serious damage or casualties were reported. Afterwards, Saomai made landfall in Zhejiang province, where 87 deaths were reported, mostly in Wenzhou. Over 18,000 homes were destroyed, and major highways in the province were flooded out. Saomai was responsible for 4.9 billion yuan in damage in Zhejiang.

At least 138 people were killed in the neighboring province of Fujian. Most of these deaths were caused by storm surge flooding in coastal fishing communities, such as Fuding. At least 8 of the deaths were caused by the collapse of a damaged evacuation shelter. Strong winds and flooding destroyed 37,000 houses and flooded 38,000 hectares (94,000 acres) of farmland, and economic damage amounted to 6.3 billion yuan.

Another two people were killed in Jiangxi. One person was washed away in floodwaters while inspecting damage, while another person was killed when a damaged building collapsed. Six reservoirs in the province were destroyed, and 348 million yuan in damage was reported.


The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies made an appeal for almost 6 million Swiss francs ($4.8 million, 2006 USD) to assist stricken families in the PRC. As of August 11, 2006, about 1.8 million Chinese yuan ($220,000) worth of relief items and financial assistance had been given to the victims. The PRC government also allocated 120 million yuan ($15.2 million) for disaster relief in areas affected by Saomai and earlier storms. The funds were used to provide food and water for displaced victims and pay for the rebuilding effort in Zhejiang and Fujian.

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