CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Growing in size and strength, Tropical Storm Matsa churned northwestward Monday on a path expected to take it about 120 miles west of Okinawa around midday Friday.

But while expected to spare Okinawa of its most vicious winds, Matsa should rake the island with winds up to 52 mph Friday morning, with isolated rainshowers dotting the weather picture as early as Tuesday evening, forecasters said.

The storm is expected to strengthen into a typhoon early Wednesday morning. Its closest projected point of approach is 138 miles west of the island at 4 p.m. Friday.

“It looks like it will pass to the west of us, but that may change, depending on how the storm moves,” said Senior Airman Amanda Tokarz, a duty forecaster for Kadena Air Base’s 18th Weather Flight.

Tropical Cyclone Condition of Readiness 3 was expected to be declared Tuesday afternoon or evening, around which time, Tokarz said, the island can start expecting winds of up to 21 mph, along with isolated showers.

That will strengthen to 35 mph on Wednesday, with rainshowers and winds between 40 and 46 mph forecast for Thursday and 52 mph winds and rain on Friday.

At that point, the storm is forecast to be packing winds of up to 144 mph at its center, but those winds are “not expected over us,” Tokarz said.

At 9 p.m. Monday, Matsa — Laotian for mermaid — was 748 miles south-southeast of Okinawa, moving northwest at 15 mph with sustained winds of 52 mph and gusts up to 63 mph.

Matsa becomes the ninth storm of the 2005 northwestern Pacific’s typhoon season, and the first one to pose a significant threat to Okinawa.

Online weather updates

Follow Tropical Storm Matsa’s path

Tropical Cyclone Condition of Readiness changes for Okinawa

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Dave Ornauer has been employed by or assigned to Stars and Stripes Pacific almost continuously since March 5, 1981. He covers interservice and high school sports at DODEA-Pacific schools and manages the Pacific Storm Tracker.

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