Sasebo spared Chaba’s worst-case scenario
August 31, 2004
SASEBO NAVAL BASE, Japan — Base residents concerned about Typhoon Chaba, due to pound Sasebo on Monday morning, got some good news from weather forecasters Sunday evening: The storm likely would hit the southern Japan base with only about half the punch once thought possible.
Chaba still would make landfall in Kyushu but pass east of Sasebo, not west, forecasters predicted. Sustained winds should peak at 52 mph and gust up to 69 mph, they said — a poor day for a picnic, but far better than predictions had the storm passed to the west. Had it taken that westerly track, the base could have been walloped with sustained winds of 98 mph, gusting up to 115 mph, stronger than any time in 60 years of recorded weather history available to the Naval Pacific Meteorology and Oceanography Detachment in Sasebo.
The base entered into Tropical Cyclone Condition of Readiness One — meaning the storm was expected to strike the base within 12 hours — just before 10 p.m. Sunday. Typhoon Chaba was 305 miles to the southeast, moving to the northwest at about 12 mph.
“Confidence is extremely high that Typhoon Chaba will pass … to the southeast of Sasebo,” the NPMOD forecast stated early Sunday evening.
“It is still too early to determine exactly how close the storm will pass … although destructive force winds of 58 miles per hour or greater are not currently expected to occur,” the forecast stated.
The Joint Typhoon Warning Center in Hawaii issued a prediction that echoed the local weather model: “A track west of Sasebo has been ruled out completely.”
Still, Monday looked to be a bad hair day for anyone venturing outside. Base schools postponed the first day of classes, officials announced Saturday; school personnel reaffirmed the school closure Sunday evening.
The Sunday evening forecast indicated that winds gradually would begin to decrease by late afternoon Monday with windy conditions (gusts 23 miles per hour or greater) ending by sunrise Tuesday.
After landfall Monday morning over southwestern Kyushu, Typhoon Chaba should have weakened rapidly, forecasters said. They predicted it would move over western Honshu, Japan’s main island, later Monday evening, passing about 13 miles west-northwest of Iwakuni Marine Corps Air Station.
A greatly weakened Chaba was forecast to pass by Yokosuka Naval Base and Yokota Air Base on Tuesday. Both sites were in low-threat TCCOR Storm Watch Sunday, their respective weather forecasting units stated.
At Yokosuka, sustained winds of 40 mph, gusting to 57 mph, were expected from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. Tuesday, according to the base’s weather forecast recording Sunday evening.
Further inland, at Yokota, sustained winds of 35 mph, gusting to 46 mph, were expected Tuesday. “We’ll probably stay in TCCOR Storm Watch throughout the whole period,” a forecaster at the 20th Operational Weather Squadron said Sunday evening.
But the naval and air bases can expect a drenching. A Sunday forecast from the Naval Pacific Meteorology and Oceanography Center at Yokosuka predicted heavy rain at times on Monday and Tuesday; the Yokota forecaster said, “We should get 1 to 3 more inches of rain” before the storm moves north.
Forecasters predicted Chaba would recurve northeast, accelerating to a position approximately 397 miles north-northeast of Misawa Air Base by Wednesday morning.