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Nabi turns its force toward Sasebo, Iwakuni

Okinawa spared, but Japan could get typhoon’s full brunt

By STARS AND STRIPES Published: September 6, 2005

Typhoon Nabi veered away from Okinawa on Sunday, sparing the island of its wrath. But the storm has now put the southwestern main island of Kyushu — and Sasebo Naval Base — squarely in its sights, with Iwakuni Marine Corps Air Station close behind.

Sasebo officials implemented Tropical Cyclone Condition of Readiness 4 at 8 a.m. Sunday as Nabi’s path leaned toward the northeast, indicating a possible direct hit with wind gusts of up to 121 mph around midnight Tuesday.

Iwakuni, which could get similarly high gusts early Wednesday morning, went into TCCOR 3 on Friday as a precaution.

Sasebo is nestled in a mountainous area that protects the base from tropical storms that track to the west. But Nabi was projected to pass east of Sasebo, which would cause Nabi’s west quadrant to hit the base with much greater force.

Ships began leaving port in advance of the storm Saturday. The USS Juneau, USS Harpers Ferry and USS Fort McHenry made open-water sorties as a precaution. The amphibious assault ship USS Essex, restricted to port due to maintenance, will be secured while moored, officials said.

The minesweeper USS Guardian and rescue-and-salvage ship USS Safeguard were already at sea. If the need arises, the minesweeper USS Patriot could be secured in dry dock, officials added.

Nabi, the 14th tropical storm of the Pacific’s typhoon season, was 336 miles south of Sasebo and 207 miles east of Okinawa at 6 p.m. Sunday, packing sustained winds of 121 mph and gusts up to 150 and moving west-northwest at 14 mph.

Sasebo was bracing for an 11 p.m. Tuesday arrival, 80 miles to the east, bringing sustained winds of 98 mph and gusts up to 121 mph.

Okinawa, meanwhile, appeared to be safe from Nabi’s most dangerous center winds, but still sat at the very edges of its 58 mph gust bands, said Capt. Colin Reece, commander of Kadena Air Base’s 18th Weather Flight.

“It’s kept its strength pretty well, but it will diminish once it hits the bigger land mass and as it enters into cooler sea temperatures,” he said.

It shouldn’t regain the super-typhoon strength it possessed last week, he said, nor should it push further south and pass over the island.

Still, 18th Wing commanding officer Brig. Gen. Jan-Marc Jouas declared TCCOR 1 at 7:15 a.m. and followed that with TCCOR 1C (caution) at 8:30 p.m. Sunday. TCCOR 1E (emergency), at which point all outdoor activity is prohibited, was expected to be declared early Monday morning, with the lockdown period expected to last eight hours. Nabi’s closest point of approach was forecast for 3 a.m. Monday.

Through early Sunday evening, the island was experiencing sustained winds of 30 mph and consistent gusts up to 40. But the storm made a slight course correction, heading west-northwest, and TCCOR 1C was triggered when one gust of 53 mph was recorded just after 8 p.m.

“We’re expecting 55 knot to 65 knot (63 to 75 mph)” at around 2 a.m. Monday, Reece said. “It may not be as long, probably an hour, but the potential exists for up to 45 to 50 knot (52 to 58 mph) winds, if not greater, through at least 3 p.m. Monday.”

Once it’s out of the Okinawa area and makes landfall on Kyushu, the storm is projected to rapidly lose its punch.

Beyond Sasebo, Nabi is expected to pass 18 miles west of Iwakuni, which lies 40 miles west of Hiroshima in southwestern Honshu, at 3 a.m. Wednesday, packing sustained winds of 92 mph and gusts up to 115.

Greg Tyler, Chiyomi Sumida and Dave Ornauer contributed to this report.


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