Officials: Nabi won’t be as bad as Katrina
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — While winds of more than 90 mph and up to 15 inches of rain are forecast to hit Okinawa early this week, officials said Typhoon Nabi likely won’t turn into another Katrina.
“It shouldn’t be nearly as severe as what we saw in New Orleans,” said Capt. Colin Reece, 18th Weather Flight commander, Kadena Air Base.
Nabi’s course again shifted slightly overnight Friday, aiming toward Yoron, Erabu and Toku islands just north of Okinawa. Its track would take it 143 miles north of Kadena on Monday afternoon, with wind gusts of up to 92 mph expected at Kadena.
New Orleans, hit by much of Katrina’s wrath and aftermath, is 12 feet below sea level. Okinawa lies above — and officials say buildings on the island, in what’s called “Typhoon Alley,” can better withstand such violent weather.
Hills, barricades and dams dot the island. “Okinawa is built for it,” Reece said.
Kadena 18th Wing spokesman 1st Lt. Gerardo Gonzalez said typical military residences and workplaces on Okinawa are designed to withstand winds up to 185 mph. “They’re pretty sturdy,” he said. “Buildings and infrastructure, we’re in pretty good shape.”
Storm surges aren’t much of an issue but three low-lying on-base areas create flooding concerns, Gonzalez said.
Two are on Kadena: the Mullen-Patterson intersection in the Seville Manor housing area and part of Peace Road near Kadena Marina. The other is in Camp Foster’s Kishaba housing area by Kubasaki High School.
While still a powerful force, Nabi “won’t be the worst storm the island has seen,” Reece said.
Joint Typhoon Warning Center forecasts said the storm was packing wind gusts up to 184 mph at its center and causing maximum wave heights of 48 feet at midday Saturday.
That’s equivalent to a Category 5 hurricane in the Western Hemisphere, equal in force to super typhoons in 1956, 1957 and 1999 that pounded the island with winds exceeding 155 mph.
“That forecast is for the right-front quadrant of the storm, the worst part … and for winds out over the open ocean,” Reece said. “We won’t record winds that high here.”
Nabi’s track has veered northward by 103 miles over the past three days. Also, Reece said “frictional forces” such as hills and buildings help cut wind speed.
Okinawa’s worst recent typhoon, Songda, packed 161-mph gusts at its center last Labor Day weekend. But just 83 mph winds hit Kadena, Reece said. “It’s two different forecasts. We forecast what we can expect over land.”
Still, he warned, Nabi will be no cakewalk. He cautioned residents to stay indoors for up to two days and ensure loose objects are tied or bolted down or stored inside.
“Of course, the potential is always there” for a worst-case scenario, Reece said.
Noting that many people transferred to Okinawa just this summer, Gonzalez emphasized the need for caution, especially during elevated levels of tropical cyclone conditions of readiness.
“If you’re not mission essential, you should return home” once TCCOR-1C (caution) is declared, he said. When TCCOR-1E (emergency), the highest level, is declared, “stay indoors.”
Chiyomi Sumida contributed to this report.
Tracking the typhoon
Typhoon Nabi was downgraded from super-typhoon status but began dumping rain on Okinawa Saturday afternoon. It’s expected to pass over the southern edges of Amami island at noon Monday, with sustained winds of 127 mph and gusts up to 155, forecasts said Saturday night.
Kadena’s 18th Wing declared Tropical Cyclone Condition of Readiness-2 at 11 a.m. Saturday. The first rain shower associated with Nabi fell on Camp Foster at 3 p.m.
An upgrade to TCCOR-1 was expected at 6 a.m. Sunday. TCCOR-1C was expected to be declared shortly thereafter with TCCOR-1E expected to be declared at 6 p.m. In TCCOR-1E, all outside activites are prohibited.
At 9 p.m. Saturday, Nabi was 405 miles southeast of Okinawa, rumbling north-northwest at 13 mph, packing sustained winds of 132 mph and gusts up to 161 at its center.
Once it departs the Okinawa area, Nabi is expected to turn its attention to the Korean peninsula, where it’s forecast to make landfall at 6 p.m. Wednesday over the southeastern coastal city of Busan, packing sustained winds of 109 mph and gusts up to 132.
No elevated TCCOR levels had yet been declared Saturday evening at Sasebo Naval Base on Japan’s main island. Forecasts indicated Nabi’s closest point of approach to Sasebo would be 53 miles west about 11 a.m. Wednesday.
— Stars and Stripes