Typhoon Saomai put Okinawa in its crosshairs as Typhoon Alley remained congested on Monday, with Saomai and two other tropical storms rumbling through the northwest Pacific.
A Tropical Cyclone Condition of Readiness 3 was issued at noon Monday for Okinawa in advance of Saomai, the eighth of 10 storms of the Pacific Rim’s tropical cyclone season. It continued strengthening and tracking northwest toward a possible Wednesday afternoon visit.
“This is a serious threat, definitely,” said Master Sgt. Brian McDonald, noncommissioned officer in charge of Kadena Air Base’s 18th Wing Weather Flight. “We could have some problems if we get the force of winds that we’re expecting.”
At midnight Monday, Saomai was 725 miles southeast of Kadena, churning northwest at 17 mph, packing sustained winds of 86 mph and gusts of up to 104 mph at its center — equivalent to a Category 1 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale.
Saomai’s winds are forecast to increase to 121 mph sustained and gusts of up to 150 mph, equal to a Category 4 storm. It’s expected to remain that strong as it passes Okinawa.
The Joint Typhoon Warning Center’s forecast has Saomai’s eye passing 116 miles south of Okinawa on Wednesday evening.
Forecasts call for Okinawa to experience sustained winds of 58 mph or greater from 2 p.m. Wednesday to 1 a.m. Thursday, with gusts of up to 81 mph.
Meanwhile, Maria strengthened into a typhoon Monday evening. Though it appeared on track to pass well to the east of Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni on Japan’s Honshu island, the base planned to remain in TCCOR 3 “until the storm passes us,” said Iwakuni weather chief Gunnery Sgt. Christopher Geraci.
At midnight Monday, Maria, the season’s ninth tropical storm, stood 350 miles south-southwest of Tokyo and 357 miles east-southeast of Iwakuni, moving northwest at 10 mph with sustained winds of 75 mph and 92 mph gusts.
If it stays on its forecast track, Maria should gradually diminish in strength and pass 200 miles east-northeast of Iwakuni at 4 a.m. Wednesday with sustained winds of 58 mph and gusts of up to 71 mph at its center. It’s then projected to make a sharp right turn and head over the Japan Alps and the Tohoku region northeast of Tokyo.
Though destructive winds of 58 mph or greater were not forecast, Yokosuka Naval Base on Monday evening declared TCCOR Storm Watch as a precaution. Atsugi Naval Air Facility and Yokota Air Base weather officials said no TCCOR was issued at either base.
The 10th tropical storm of the season, Bopha, continued swirling well to the south of Okinawa and did not appear to pose a threat to the island, McDonald said. It lurked 213 miles south of Naha at midnight Monday, creeping west at 9 mph with sustained winds of 52 mph and 63 mph gusts.
Forecasts called for Bopha to bring isolated showers and sustained breezes of 29 mph and 35 mph gusts between 6 p.m. Monday and 6 a.m. Tuesday, setting the stage for Saomai’s approach.
Precipitation from either storm would come on the heels of a rather soggy weekend — nearly 6½ inches of rain fell on Okinawa from late Friday afternoon to midday Sunday, Kadena weather officials said.
Get the latest info
See the Joint Typhoon Warning Center’s forecast track and wind speeds for: