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Pacific edition, Wednesday, August 15, 2007

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Tropical Storm Sepat intensified Monday, creeping slowly away from Okinawa to the southwest. But weather forecasters at Kadena Air Base still were keeping a sharp eye on the ninth storm of the northwest Pacific’s tropical cyclone season.

Sepat’s slow movement — west-southwest at just more than 8 mph — meant storm watchers were “having a hard time getting a handle” on its precise path, said Capt. Jonathan Wilson, commanding officer at Kadena’s 18th Wing Weather Flight.

Slow-moving storms have more time to interact with the surrounding environment, Wilson said, which could allow for a track change.

At 6 p.m. Monday, Sepat spun 755 miles south-southeast of Okinawa, with sustained 69 mph winds and 86 mph gusts at its center.

Joint Typhoon Warning Center forecasts call for Sepat to take a westerly arc toward Taiwan, slamming ashore near the island’s center sometime Saturday afternoon.

The closest point of approach to Okinawa is forecast for 445 miles southwest at 7 p.m. Friday, packing 115 mph sustained winds and 144 mph gusts, equal to a Category 3 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale.

Should Sepat bend north toward Okinawa, “it would still be three or four days away,” Wilson said. “We’ll continue to watch and monitor it.”

The sun broke through Monday morning on Okinawa, but more rain was in the forecast into Tuesday evening. Kadena and Japanese weather Web sites called for up to an 80 percent chance of rain and showers.

That would come on top of last weekend’s deluges, causing what Japanese weather officials called the second-heaviest non-typhoon rainfall for Okinawa since such records started being kept in 1890.

About 16.8 inches of rain fell in Naha from 9 a.m. Friday to Sunday morning, second-heaviest behind the 18.4 recorded over a similar period in October 1959.

“It was a once in 100 or 200 years kind of downpour,” said Kiyoshi Uehara of the Okinawa Meteorological Observatory.

The 18th Wing Weather Flight recorded 13.84 inches at Kadena.

On a positive note, the inundation brought Okinawa’s 10 reservoirs back to 100 percent capacity, according to an Okinawa Drought Countermeasures Agency bulletin Monday.

But the heavy rain delayed Monday’s three opening games in the 2007 Marine Corps Far East Regional Softball Tournament at Camp Hansen. Officials said they would try to begin play on Tuesday.

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