Kelly Simek describes being stranded at Kansai airport when Typhoon Jebi hit Japan

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One of Japan’s busiest airports remains closed indefinitely after Typhoon Jebi left a trail of destruction in and around Osaka.

The strongest typhoon to hit the country in 25 years flooded a runway, toppled huge cranes, flipped cars on their side, damaged historic shrines, and caused at least 11 deaths.

Some 3,000 airline passengers were forced to spend the night at offshore Kansai International Airport after a tanker slammed into a bridge, damaging the airport’s only link to the mainland.

KHON2’s own Kelly Simek was among them, huddling in the airport’s smaller Terminal 2 building when Jebi made landfall.

“You can see the debris flying around everywhere. There was like, almost ribbon and toilet paper, things that looked like streamers flying around, and Styrofoam. I saw a bunch of debris flying around, but the wind against the airport, because it was all just this metal, just the sound was so scary. Just the environment that we were in, it just seemed really scary, but we felt safe for where we were,” she said. 

“There were two stressful parts. One was definitely when you were hearing all of this. It was wondering, is this structure safe? Am I okay here? And then two was the standing in line. The morning after, we had to stand in line for a ferry,” Simek continued. “We stood in line to get on the ferry that took us from Kansai airport to Kobe Airport for nine hours. That was probably the worst thing ever.”

Simek says her experience preparing for hurricanes proved invaluable.

“Luckily, right when they canceled all the flights for the day, I decided to go to, believe it or not, there was a 7-Eleven in the Terminal 2 airport that I was in. This tiny terminal had a 7-Eleven, so I stocked up on, basically the hurricane prep kicked in, right, so I grabbed a bunch of non-perishables. Luckily, the water was still fine, and we had empty water bottles so I was able to fill up water bottles,” she said. “Going through this typhoon, it’s essentially what we would have gone through with a (category) 1 hurricane, right? I basically learned that I’m pretty well prepared. I really don’t think I would do anything different.”

One thing she learned from the experience: Be prepared to lose all lines of communication.

“We always talk about hurricane prep and knowing when to communicate and how to communicate. That’s one thing that I didn’t think about so much,” Simek said. “Everyone knew where we were. Everyone knew that we were in the airport, so I think they knew we were okay, but being able to actually finally get a hold of my mom and say we’re alright and we’re just going to be hanging out here for awhile, that was such a huge difference.”

Simek is now in Kobe and still trying to figure out how to return home to Hawaii.

“It’s looking like if Osaka doesn’t reopen, the flights aren’t really reasonable until Monday,” she said. “We’re just going to have to hang out in Japan, which isn’t the worst thing. More sushi and more tempura for me.”

Simek also shared her experiences via Facebook Live, which you can view here.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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