Okinawa bases 'fared pretty well' in storm
September 13, 2003
KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — Typhoon Maemi moved slowly toward the Korea peninsula on Friday after moving well to the west of Okinawa, sparing the island of winds whipped to 190 mph at the storm center.
The strongest winds on Okinawa were clocked at 66.7 mph, at 7:30 p.m. Thursday.
Military bases on Okinawa, locked down in Tropical Cyclone Condition of Readiness 1-Caution since Wednesday morning, went into TCCOR 1-Emergency at 7:50 p.m., meaning winds of 57 mph or greater were anticipated. All outside activity was prohibited.
The bases were expected to go in to recovery mode Friday morning with schools and businesses open with minimum delays.
“It will be a very short recovery period,” said Senior Airman Brenda Tillman at the 18th Weather Flight.
Tillman said the storm closed to within about 150 miles west of the island between 2 p.m. and 9 p.m. Thursday.
“It just kind of sat there for a long time, moving very, very slowly,” she said.
Once the storm picked up speed and once again moved to the north at 15 mph, it lost some of its punch and was downgraded to typhoon status.
“We fared pretty well,” Tillman said. “Kumejima, an island about 30 miles to the west of us, got hit a lot harder than us, with winds of 73 knots (84 mph).”
The typhoon was the most powerful storm to hit Okinawa prefecture in 30 years, according to the Okinawa Meteorological Observatory.
No major damage on Okinawa was reported by prefectural authorities and it was mostly business as usual outside the bases, with the exception of canceled flights at Naha International Airport.
Maemi, named for a Korean cicada, was not so kind to other islands in the prefecture. The tiny island of Miyako, 345 miles southwest of Okinawa, bore the brunt of the storm.
Strong winds clocked at 125 mph and heavy rain swept over the island, killing an elderly woman and injuring at least 78 others, Okinawa officials said Thursday. Electrical power was out to 22,600 homes, most of the island’s residents.
The 86-year-old woman died of a heart attack at an island hospital after being hit in the head by shards of glass, officials said.
Typhoon Maemi moved slowly past Okinawa on Thursday at 5 mph, according to the Joint Typhoon Warning Center in Hawaii. It was forecast to continue on a north-northwest track and threaten the South Korean cities of Pusan and Taegu by Saturday. Winds are expected to whip between 115 mph and 145 mph.
The storm is forecast to lose strength as it passes over the Korean peninsula and cooler water. It may be downgraded to a tropical depression Sunday as it passes over the Sea of Japan.