CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — A wet, windy Wednesday appeared to be in store as Typhoon Saomai continued rumbling west on a track that would take it just south of Okinawa.
Forecasts called for rain showers and high winds into Thursday evening, with gusts of up to 69 mph early Wednesday afternoon.
Tropical Cyclone Condition of Readiness 1 was declared for U.S. bases on the island at midnight Tuesday. TCCOR 1E (emergency) was expected to be issued at noon Wednesday. Damaging winds of 58 mph or greater were forecast for noon to 6 p.m. with maximum gusts of 69 mph expected at 3 p.m.
Saomai’s eye was forecast to miss the island 145 miles to the south, and the storm was not expected to unleash its full fury on Okinawa.
Kadena Air Base weather officials, however, cautioned personnel to take every precaution to stay indoors and out of harm’s way, even if they see locals making their daily rounds off base.
“When they see people walking around, they get a notion of safety but it doesn’t take much for a car door (caught by a wind gust) to slam on a finger or a leg,” said Master Sgt. Brian McDonald, noncommissioned officer in charge of Kadena’s 18th Wing Weather Flight.
At midnight Tuesday, Saomai was 357 miles southeast of Naha, Okinawa’s prefectural capital, churning west-northwest at 15 mph, packing sustained winds of 104 mph and gusts of up to 127 mph at its center.
If it remains on the track forecast by the Joint Typhoon Warning Center, Saomai will pass 145 miles south of Kadena at 3 p.m. Wednesday, with sustained winds of 115 mph and 144 mph gusts.
As early as Tuesday afternoon, Kadena felt wind gusts exceeding 30 mph; Saomai-related showers began falling just after 11 p.m. at Camp Foster. “I would take it very seriously,” McDonald said. “To quote an old saying, ‘It’s not nice to fool with Mother Nature.’”
Meanwhile, Maria, the ninth storm of the season, was downgraded to a tropical storm and veering sharply northeast toward a projected landfall of 9 a.m. Wednesday just east of Nagoya on Honshu Island. It was forecast to rapidly lose strength and become a tropical depression as it skirted just to the west of U.S. bases on the Kanto Plain.
At midnight Tuesday, Maria was 207 miles southwest of Tokyo, moving north-northeast at 8 mph with sustained winds of 52 mph and gusts of up to 63 mph. JTWC’s track had Maria passing 26 miles west of Atsugi Naval Air Facility and Camp Zama at 8 a.m. Thursday and 14 miles west of Yokota Air Base at 9 a.m., but its sustained winds are forecast to drop to 29 mph with gusts of up to 40 mph.
Yokosuka Naval Base remained in TCCOR Storm Watch as a precaution. No TCCORs were issued at either Yokota or Atsugi, weather forecasters at each base said.
Far to Okinawa’s southwest, Tropical Storm Bopha remained on track to bisect Taiwan, 110 miles south of Taipei at 5 a.m. Wednesday, then cross the Formosa Strait before making landfall over southeastern China at 9 a.m. Thursday.
Bopha was swirling 127 miles southeast of Taipei at 11 p.m. Monday Taiwan time, hurtling west-northwest at 12 mph with sustained winds of 52 mph and 63 mph gusts.