CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Tropical Storm Soulik continued intensifying as it rumbled Tuesday toward Iwo Jima, and forecasters at Kadena Air Base said the chances were good that Okinawa could be on the itinerary for the 21st storm of the northwest Pacific’s tropical cyclone season.
“This may be the one good one that we get hit with this year,” said Capt. Jonathan Wilson of Kadena’s 18th Wing weather flight. Only twice this season has a typhoon caused a declaration of Tropical Cyclone Condition of Readiness 1-E (emergency) for Okinawa bases.
At midnight Tuesday, Soulik swirled 1,548 miles east-southeast of Okinawa and 414 miles northeast of Saipan, churning west-northwest at 16 mph, packing sustained winds of 63 mph and 81-mph gusts at its center.
Computer models used to gauge tropical storms’ progress “are in pretty good agreement,” Wilson said, projecting Soulik to keep moving west-northwest, passing 132 miles south of Iwo Jima on Thursday. Okinawa is very likely next in its path early next week, Wilson said.
If Soulik remains on its Joint Typhoon Warning Center forecast track, it will be 450 miles east-southeast of Okinawa at 9 p.m. Sunday, packing sustained 121-mph winds and 150-mph gusts — equal to a Category 4 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale.
“The track should be fairly stable and it should come close to Okinawa, if not a direct hit,” Wilson said.
With Soulik so far from Okinawa late Tuesday, it was still “about a week” from reaching Okinawa “as it stands right now … assuming nothing major changes in the atmosphere,” Wilson said.
“A lot can change in a week.”