Bases shut down as typhoon slams Okinawa
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Typhoon Meari stormed over Okinawa early Sunday packing winds forecasters said could reach almost 110 mph.
All military bases on Okinawa were locked down in Tropical Condition of Readiness 1 Emergency Sunday at 3 a.m., bracing for what promised to be the strongest storm of a busy typhoon season.
Typhoon Meari, the Korean word for “echo,” is the Northwest Pacific’s 21st tropical storm and the 10th to track near Okinawa, according to the 18th Weather Flight on Kadena Air Base. The storm shifted slightly on a northwest track Saturday afternoon, heading straight for the island instead of passing more than 100 miles to the southwest, as predicted in early forecasts.
Winds of 58 mph began to whip across the island early Sunday. Forecasters with the 18th Weather Flight predicted the high winds would continue until about 9 a.m. Monday, with the strongest sustained winds blowing at 80 mph, with gusts up to 110 mph, about 9 a.m. Sunday.
The eye of the storm was expected to pass about 45 miles southwest of central Okinawa, where most of the bases are located, by 11 a.m. Sunday.
“You have to keep in mind that there’s a lot of variation in the different forecast tracks, proving that Mother Nature’s still in charge,” said Air Force Tech Sgt. Carlo Erhardt. “A difference of one degree can mean the difference in how strong the winds will be.
“But this certainly looks to be the strongest typhoon to hit Okinawa this year,” he said.
Meari is the second typhoon to hit Okinawa this month. Typhoon Songda hit the island Labor Day weekend boasting winds up to 104 mph and wiping out the island’s tangerine crop to the tune of $9 million.
Songda was billed as the strongest typhoon to hit the island in 30 years, but caused little damage to homes and businesses. The worst problem on the island’s military bases were scattered power outages on Kadena Air Base, which lasted several days in some housing areas.
Songda dumped about 12 inches of rain on Okinawa, and Typhoon Meari promises to be just as wet.
The island can expect at least eight inches or more of rain, Erhardt said.
“That’s because it will be with us for a while,” he said. “It will be making it’s right turn toward the northeast just as it passes over us, so it will stay over us a significant amount of time.”
The storm is forecast to make a beeline once it passes over Okinawa, passing within 80 miles of Sasebo early Wednesday morning with winds gusting to 90 mph at its center.
The Joint Typhoon Warning Center in Hawaii forecasts Typhoon Meari to pass within 40 miles of Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni by 7 p.m. Wednesday sporting winds up to 75 mph.