Tropical Storm Wukong formed overnight Saturday near Iwo Jima, and the 11th tropical storm of the northwest Pacific’s tropical cyclone season began rumbling northwest in the general direction of Japan’s southwestern Kyushu Island late Sunday.
Tropical Cyclone Condition of Readiness-Storm Watch was issued at 6 p.m. for Sasebo Naval Base, and TCCOR 3 was put into effect at 11:45 a.m. at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, officials at each base said.
Over a six-hour period Sunday afternoon, the Joint Typhoon Warning Center’s forecast track for Wukong changed drastically — initially projected to pass east of Iwakuni at midday Tuesday, Wukong now is forecast to graze Sasebo just to the west on Friday evening.
Weather officials from Iwakuni, Sasebo and Kadena Air Base on Okinawa were keeping an eagle eye on Wukong. It sat 633 miles east of Kadena and 658 miles south-southeast of Iwakuni at midnight Sunday, with sustained winds of 44 mph and gusts of up to 52 mph at its center.
“I would characterize it as being a little extra-cautious in advance,” said Sasebo spokesman Chuck Howard of the TCCOR-Storm Watch declaration. “We’ll act accordingly if the forecasts indicate we need to. I’m sure it will be a topic of conversation at our Monday meetings.”
If it moves and strengthens as forecast by the JTWC, Wukong will become a typhoon by midday Friday and pass 38 miles west of Sasebo at 6 p.m., packing sustained winds of 75 mph and gusts of up to 92 mph.
Wukong’s closest point of approach to Kadena is forecast to be 267 miles northeast at 6 a.m. Thursday. It’s projected to miss Iwakuni 185 miles to the west at 9 p.m. Friday.
Still, Iwakuni weather officials said they were taking no chances.
“We’re going to stay in TCCOR 3 for the time being,” duty forecaster Sgt. Daniel Young said. “It could change back. We’ll see what happens.”
A Kadena weather forecaster said it’s “too early to say at this point” if Wukong will threaten the island, but “significant changes” in conditions would be needed for that to happen.
Wukong is named for a character from the 18th-century Chinese novel “Journey to the West.” In it, the Tang Dynasty monk Xuanzang ventures to India to search for Buddhist scriptures. Wukong, the king of the monkeys, guards Xuanzang and slays monsters along the way.
Get the latest storm updates