Changing track, Songda heads for Okinawa
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Military bases on Okinawa braced for a direct hit from a powerful tropical storm Saturday as Typhoon Songda’s path curved and headed straight for the island.
The storm, packing gusts of up to 172.6 mph at its center was 214 miles southeast of Okinawa at 9 p.m. Saturday and heading northwest at almost 12 mph.
At 2:25 a.m. Sunday, military bases on Okinawa entered Tropical Cyclone Condition of Readiness 1 Emergency, meaning destructive winds of 58 mph were occurring. All outside activity on the bases were prohibited at that time. As of 6:30 a.m. Sunday, the strongest winds on the island were clocked at 81 mph.
All businesses on the bases closed, and nonessential service members and civilian employees were advised to stay indoors at 6 p.m. on Saturday when officials declared TCCOR-1 Caution.
On Friday the storm, named for a river in northern Vietnam, was forecast by the Joint Typhoon Warning Center in Hawaii to pass well to the south of Okinawa on a course for Taiwan. But that changed midday Saturday as Songda began to be influenced by a high pressure ridge that steered the storm on a west-northwest track, according to Tech. Sgt. Musette Wilson, a forecaster with the 18th Weather Flight at Kadena Air Base.
Once past Okinawa, the storm is expected to take a hard right turn and churn to the north toward Taegu on the Korean Peninsula and into the Sea of Japan, according to the 18th Weather Flight.
Typhoon Songda was expected to make its closest point of approach about 20 miles south of Kadena Air Base at 12 a.m. Monday, packing sustained winds of almost 104 mph at its center with gusts whipping up to 144 mph.
Winds in excess of 60 mph were forecast from 3 a.m. Sunday to 9 p.m. Monday. Rain was expected through Tuesday. Wilson said typhoons in the Western Pacific are legendary for having minds of their own and making unexpected changes of course.
“I was wary of this one, because the two most recent storms moved on courses that missed Okinawa,” she said. “I was telling people it’s only logical that we get hit with this one, since the last one missed us to the west, and the one before that veered away to our east. It’s only logical this one hits us.”