Okinawa prepares for Typhoon Tokage
Stars and Stripes October 20, 2004
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Packing wind gusts of up to 150 mph at its center, Typhoon Tokage took dead aim at Okinawa, threatening a Tuesday shutdown of all outdoor activity on U.S. bases on the island.
Tokage soon may be followed by Nock-Ten, which developed into a typhoon overnight Sunday southeast of Guam and is expected to pass south of the Marianas Islands, then track northwest toward Okinawa.
If they stay on course, they’ll become the eighth and ninth storms to either threaten or hit Okinawa in 14 weeks. The storms are the 27th and 28th of the northwest Pacific’s typhoon season, an unusually high number, according to 1st Lt. John Hurley of Kadena Air Base’s 18th Weather Flight.
“It’s a flip of the coin,” Hurley said. “Every once in a while, we get seasons when we get more tropical storms than in other years, per se. Next year, we may not even see half the storms we’ve seen this year. We’re just in a more active period right now.”
At 1:30 a.m. Tuesday, Tokage, a Japanese word for the constellation Lacerta, or “lizard,” was 248 miles southeast of Okinawa, moving northwest at 11.5 mph, packing sustained winds of 110 mph and gusts up to 132 mph at its center.
If it continues on its present course, Tokage’s closest point of approach is forecast to be 20 miles west of Kadena Air Base at midnight Tuesday, with sustained winds of 86 mph and gusts up to 104 mph, according to 18th Weather Flight and Joint Typhoon Warning Center projections.
Damaging winds of 58 mph or greater were forecast between 9 a.m. Tuesday and 1 a.m. Wednesday. 18th Weather Flight officials projected peak winds to be 92 mph at 6 p.m. Tuesday.
Tokage then is forecast to turn gradually northeast and head toward Kyushu Island, lose strength rapidly, and pass well to the east of Sasebo Naval Base and Iwakuni Marine Corps Air Station in Japan.
Hurley offered one bit of good news: “It looks like it’s weakening considerably, not as well a defined eye and not as organized as it was,” he said. “The projected winds could change. But 80 knots (92 mph) is the max we can expect. Heavy rain is possible along with the strongest winds.”
U.S. bases on Okinawa entered Tropical Cyclone Condition of Readiness 1 at 9 p.m. Monday.
“We’re thinking as it continues to move, we’re hoping it will speed up a little bit and get on out of here,” Hurley said. “By Wednesday morning, we should see it start to lighten up a little bit.”
As for Nock-Ten, a Laotian word for bird, its directional speed slowed considerably as it developed into a typhoon overnight.
At midnight Monday Guam time, Nock-Ten sat 471.5 miles east-southeast of Guam and was tracking due west at about 9 mph, packing sustained winds of 98 mph and gusts up to 121 mph at its center.
If it continues on its present course, Nock-Ten will pass 30 miles south of Naval Station Guam and 58 miles south of Andersen Air Force Base at 1 p.m. Wednesday, with sustained winds of 127 mph and gusts up to 155 mph.
Nock-Ten then is expected to turn northwest, pick up directional speed and take aim at Okinawa. But it is expected to be well to the southeast by Saturday, perhaps sparing the island yet another weekend of blustery, wet weather — a common occurance over the past 3½ months.
“It’s too early to tell. It could change,” Hurley said, adding that a low pressure center moving off of China, which will steer Tokage northward after it reaches Okinawa, also will push Nock-Ten away from the island.
“We’re hoping this will be strong enough to turn Nock-Ten to the east and stay out at sea,” Hurley said.