Okinawans keeping fingers crossed as Ma-on is upgraded to typhoon
Ma-on blossomed from tropical storm into typhoon overnight Wednesday, but 18th Weather Flight officials at Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, said it would only graze the island, bringing showers and high wind.
“It’s still not expected to hit us,” said duty forecaster Tech. Sgt. Michael Milton.
But weather officials at Tokyo-area military bases began bracing for Ma-on’s possible approach, declaring on Thursday afternoon Tropical Cyclone Condition of Readiness 4, meaning winds of 57 mph or greater were expected within 72 hours.
Ma-on, Chinese for “horse saddle,” the name of a Hong Kong peak, tracked northwest Thursday but was starting to turn north-northeast Thursday evening. At 3 p.m., it was 339 miles southeast of Kadena, plodding north-northwest at just under 6 mph and packing sustained winds of 104 mph and gusts up to 127 mph at its center.
If it continued on its projected path, Ma-on was to pass 214 miles east of Okinawa at about 4 p.m. Friday, with peak winds expected to be 40 mph.
The island’s military bases remained in TCCOR-3. The storm’s initial feeder bands began bringing light drizzle at about 3 p.m. Milton said no heightened conditions were expected to be declared, but weekend forecasts called for “light rain showers, on and off … spotty for the most part. It’s going to be dreary.”
Showers should get heavier overnight Thursday, he said, “but nothing out of the ordinary.” Cloudy, cooler weather was expected as Ma-on moved on, with rain and winds subsiding at about 3 p.m. on Saturday.
The storm is projected to make landfall just east of Kyoto about 3 a.m. on Sunday. But Tokyo-area bases were watching should Ma-on take a more easterly path. Officials at Yokota Air Base’s weather flight were expected to meet early Friday to discuss heightened readiness conditions.
Any Tokyo-area impact wouldn’t appear until late Saturday or early Sunday, after which Ma-on should move rapidly northeast, said 374th Operational Support Squadron weather flight commander Maj. Neil Sanger. “We could get some very heavy rain and gusty winds,” he said.
The storm’s unpredictability — it’s taken a zig-zag path since forming last week near Guam — has made plotting Ma-on’s path a struggle, Sanger said. Wind speed and precipitation “all depends on the track of the storm, which has changed a lot over the last 24 hours. The Joint Typhoon Warning Center is not very confident in the track of the storm right now, so the winds could increase or decrease.”
Yokota officials targeted Saturday for possible evacuation of C-130 Hercules cargo aircraft assigned to the 374th Airlift Wing.