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KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — Okinawa was spared the full strength of Super Typhoon Maemi as the huge storm churned Thursday on a course some 150 miles to the east.

Maemi packed sustained winds of 170 mph, with gusts clocked in excess of 200 mph at its center early Thursday, and was tracking to the northwest at 8 mph.

The strongest winds on Okinawa, however, were a relatively mild 56 mph, said Air Force Lt. Aaron Williams, meteorologist for the 18th Weather Flight.

“We’ve been pretty fortunate,” Williams said. “We’re lucky this storm didn’t come right over us.”

Williams said the winds would pick up as the storm moves east of the island. The closest point of approach was forecast to be about 150 miles to the east at 2 p.m. Thursday. He said the strongest winds would be about 90 mph at that time.

Okinawa was expected to go into recovery mode early Friday.

Maemi — named for a Korean cicada — was forecast to continue a northward track on a direct course for Taegu and Pusan, South Korea, with winds of 110 mph to 130 mph, early Saturday.

Even though Okinawa was spared the strong winds, it was not business as usual.

Military bases went into Tropical Cyclone Condition of Readiness 1-Caution at 5:30 a.m. Wednesday, closing all schools, businesses and nonessential activities.

The lockdown condition was not expected to be lifted until Friday morning.

As Okinawans went about their normal business outside the gates, U.S. military personnel and their families on the bases were ordered to remain in their homes.

And all flights at Naha International Airport were cancelled, affecting more than 12,000 passengers.


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