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CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Haitang strengthened into a super typhoon overnight Friday but veered well south of Okinawa, churning along a path that would make Taiwan its primary target. It’s expected to make landfall there around 9 a.m. Monday with sustained winds of 132 mph and gusts up to 161 mph.

A high pressure system over Okinawa helped keep the powerful storm well to the south of Okinawa, officials at Kadena Air Base’s 18th Weather Flight said Saturday.

“A ridge of high pressure stayed in place over us,” said duty forecaster Technical Sgt. Musette Willis. Such systems influence the direction in which tropical storms travel, she said.

Though 18th Weather Flight wasn’t planning to declare increased tropical cyclone conditions of readiness, “we’re still expecting some of the effects” of Haitang, Willis said. Wind gusts up to 52 mph and isolated showers and thunderstorms were expected from Saturday evening until Sunday afternoon. “We’re going to keep our eye on it,” Willis said. “It’s a pretty powerful storm.”

Haitang, a Chinese word for crab- apple tree, appeared headed toward central Taiwan, about 80 miles south of the capital of Taipei.

Satellite imagery on the Joint Typhoon Warning Center’s public Web site showed Haitang to be a well-organized storm with a clearly defined eye. Its outer bands stretched from the east coast of the Philippines to nearly two-thirds of the way to the Marianas Islands, some 1,700 miles east of Manila.

At 9 p.m. Saturday, Haitang was 380 miles south- southeast of Okinawa’s prefectural capital of Naha and about 600 miles east-southeast of Taipei, moving west-northwest at 15 mph, with sustained winds of 161 mph and gusts up to 196 mph.

The closest point of approach to Kadena by the fifth storm of the northwest Pacific’s typhoon season was forecast for 360 miles southwest at 10 a.m. Sunday, with sustained winds of 161 mph and gusts up to 196 mph at its center.

If Haitang continues on its projected track, it will slam into Taiwan about 9 a.m. Monday, packing sustained winds of 132 mph and gusts up to 161 mph. It then will diminish in strength, cross into the Formosa Strait, then make landfall in southeast-central China at about 6 p.m. Tuesday, with sustained winds of 69 mph and gusts up to 86 mph, forecasters estimated.

Track Typhoon Haitang

Follow Typhoon Haitang’s projected path: Joint Typhoon Warning Center

Get updated tropical cyclone condition of readiness information:Kadena Air Base, Japan

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Dave Ornauer has been employed by or assigned to Stars and Stripes Pacific almost continuously since March 5, 1981. He served 10½ years in the Air Force, the last 4½ assigned to Stripes in Tokyo, and was then hired by Stripes on Oct. 25, 1985. He covers interservice and high school sports at DODEA-Pacific schools and manages Pacific Storm Tracker.
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