Caution urged as Typhoon Ewiniar aims at Okinawa
July 7, 2006
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Wednesday’s sunny weather seemed typical for an early July Okinawa day. But that beauty belied a beast lurking to the south: Typhoon Ewiniar, first storm of the northwest Pacific’s typhoon season to threaten Okinawa.
Tropical Cyclone Condition of Readiness 3 was issued by Kadena Air Base’s 18th Wing at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday. Given the storm’s forecast track, Ewiniar could deliver an almost-direct hit to the island, 18th Wing weather flight officials said Wednesday.
“We’re going to feel it,” said Capt. Colin Reece, 18th Wing weather flight commander.
The Joint Typhoon Warning Center forecast that Ewiniar will pass 17 miles west of Kadena at 7 p.m. Saturday, packing sustained winds of 98 mph and gusts of up to 127 mph.
Okinawa can expect winds of 58 mph starting mid-afternoon Friday. “Definitely heavy rain” and 69-81 mph winds will continue to lash the island “well into Saturday and possibly Sunday morning,” Reece said.
Ewiniar briefly reached super-typhoon strength overnight Tuesday but was downgraded to a typhoon Wednesday afternoon and should diminish in strength somewhat as it moves north, Reece said. “It will stay at typhoon level at this point, it won’t be super-typhoon strength,” he said, “but it’s still slotted to be a pretty strong storm when it hits us.”
At midnight Wednesday, Ewiniar was 552 miles south-southeast of Naha, the prefectural capital, moving west-northwest at 69 mph, packing sustained winds of 132 mph and gusts of up to 161 mph at its center — equal to a Category 3 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale.
“Take it seriously and take every precaution necessary, especially new people who’ve not experienced something like this yet,” Reece said.
Once past Okinawa, Ewiniar is projected to track rapidly northeast, veering 32 miles east of Sasebo Naval Base at 11 p.m. Sunday with sustained winds of 69 mph and gusts of up to 86 mph. Sasebo spokesman Chuck Howard said the base expected to issue TCCOR 4 around 9 a.m. Thursday.
Whether ships will be moved out of the Sasebo area to safer waters “depends on where the storm goes and when,” Howard said.
The storm then is forecast to take aim at Iwakuni Marine Corps Air Station, passing 44 miles to its west at 7 a.m. Monday with sustained winds of 63 mph and gusts of up to 80 mph, before moving into the Sea of Japan.
Ewiniar is a Chu’uk word that stands for “traditional storm god.”
Preparations have begun for the storm’s arrival, 18th Wing officials said Wednesday. “We’re looking at the weather and taking all the necessary precautions to take care of our personnel and assets at Kadena,” said base spokesman Capt. Carlos Diaz. He declined to go into specifics, citing security concerns.
Diaz advised personnel to “stay tuned to AFN and commanders’ access channels, as storm information will be funneled directly to them.”
Events up in the air
(NOTE: This story has not been updated to reflect the latest conditions.)
Friday and Saturday performances by the Harlem Globetrotters basketball team were postponed, Marine Corps Community Services-Okinawa and 18th Services officials at Kadena said. The Globetrotters were to visit Futenma Marine Corps Air Station on Friday and Kadena Air Base on Saturday. MCCS officials said they would try to reschedule the Futenma visit for Wednesday.
Commanders’ Cup softball tournaments at Camp Hansen and Futenma were still a go as of Wednesday afternoon, said Sonny Jones of MCCS-Okinawa Semper Fit athletics. “It’s too early to tell,” he said.
Also in doubt was the Atsugi Falcons of the U.S. Forces Japan-American Football League’s game Saturday against the Okinawa Football League’s Kadena Dragons at Kadena. Player-coach Isaac Warren said “we’re pressing on” as of Wednesday but that the the teams would try to reschedule the game for another weekend if weather washes out Saturday’s contest.
From staff reports