CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — While Americans on Okinawa had their eyes glued to CNN on Monday to watch the progress of Hurricane Katrina as it approached New Orleans, the island was forced into its own typhoon watch.
However, the eye of Typhoon Talim is expected to make its closest point of approach some 290 miles to the south of the island Wednesday.
“We’ll see winds whipping up to 45 knots (50 mph) and a lot of rain, but not much more,” said Senior Airman Richard Hale, a forecaster with Kadena Air Base’s 18th Wing.
Talim, which means “sharp or cutting edge” in the Philippines, was 450 miles southeast of Okinawa at 9 p.m. Monday, tracking west at about 13 mph. It had increased in strength sharply over the previous six hours, packing sustained winds of 138 mph and gusts up to 167 mph.
Forecasters predict the storm’s eye will pass about 18 miles north of Taipei, Taiwan, by mid-morning Thursday. At that time the winds at the storm’s center were predicted to be 121 mph, gusting to 147 mph.
The 18th Wing ordered all military bases on Okinawa to advance to Tropical Typhoon Condition of Readiness 3 at 9 a.m. Monday, which means destructive winds of 57.5 mph or greater could hit the island within 48 hours.
Bases were not expected to go into more serious typhoon conditions.
“It will not be that strong here,” Hale said.
However, Okinawa officials were warning residents to beware of rough sea conditions beginning Monday.
“The typhoon is expected to hit Sakishima, and the possibility of its hitting Okinawa’s main island is low at this point,” Kenzen Ohama, a weather forecaster with the Okinawa Meteorological Observatory, said Monday afternoon. Sakishima includes the southernmost prefectural islands of Miyako and Ishigaki.
“But the sea condition around the main island of Okinawa is another story,” Ohama said. “Waves are already becoming very high and we will probably issue a high-wave warning soon,” he said.
Warnings are issued when waves in excess of 20 feet are expected, Ohama said.
“What we are afraid of is that people might think it is safe to go into the water because the typhoon is not directly hitting the island,” he said. “But the sea condition is very dangerous with high waves.
“People should stay away from the beaches,” he said. “Any water-related activity can be very dangerous.”
Chiyomi Sumida contributed to this story.