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A moderate lunchtime earthquake on Saturday registered at a preliminary magnitude of 5.5 shaking up Kanto Plain residents who are now bracing for a visit from Typhoon Choi-Wan.

By Saturday night, all U.S. military bases around Tokyo had been placed in Tropical Cyclone Condition of Storm Watch.

“Although destructive winds have subsided or are no longer forecasted to occur, there is still a possibility of danger due to the close proximity of the storm and unforecasted changes in the storm track and/or strength,” weather forecasters predicted.

The storm began drifting east early Sunday morning, and some now predict only a glancing blow to the area, with continued rain looming as the biggest threat.

“It’s a weak typhoon, nothing like Isabel or the one that hit Korea,” said Capt. Michael Mills, the typhoon duty officer for Yokota Air Base’s 20th Operational Weather Squadron.

“This is just a baby typhoon.”

Hurricane Isabel struck the U.S. mainland last week as a Category 2 storm, leaving a path of destruction from North Carolina to New England.

Earlier this month, South Korea was hit by Typhoon Maemi, which triggered devastating floods and left 92 dead.

As of 3 a.m. Sunday, Choi-Wan, Chinese for “colorful cloud,” was 170 miles southeast of Kyushu, moving almost due east at 15 mph.

Its maximum sustained winds were at 86 mph, with gusts to 104 mph, according to the 20th Weather Squadron.

The typhoon’s latest track shows it passing within 118 miles of Yokosuka Naval Base and 146 miles of Yokota at 10 a.m. Monday, with the outer bands producing winds of only 17-24 mph.

“Right now, it does not appear it’ll impact us that much,” said Mills. “It’s a little further out now.”

While Yokota officials planned to re-evaluate its readiness posture at noon Sunday, Mills added, no major precautions or preparations had been made at any Kanto-area military installation, due to the typhoon’s relative weak punch.

The slow, steady rain remained the biggest concern, he said, creating the potential for minor flooding.

Yokota had received just more than 1.5 inches over a 24-hour period since 7 a.m. Saturday.

Choi-Wan formed last week over Okinawa, quickly building to typhoon strength, but the island reported no damage, injuries or power outages on Saturday afternoon.

The strongest winds on Okinawa were 94 mph at midnight Friday, according to the 18th Weather Flight at Kadena Air Base.


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