A powerful hurricane crossed the International Dateline overnight Sunday and became Super Typhoon Ioke. Packing wind gusts of nearly 200 mph, the storm churned westward toward Wake Island and the small military detachment there is bracing for a wild, windy Wednesday.

Capt. Nate Harris said his station and its 200-odd inhabitants already have begun preparing for Ioke, which is forecast to pass just northeast of the three-island atoll comprising Wake, Pease and Wilkes islands. The storm is expected to lash the islands with winds up to 86 mph overnight Wednesday into Thursday morning.

“We’ve started boarding up windows, sandbagging doors, making sure we have enough food and ensure that we stay in touch with our host command,” the 15th Airlift Wing at Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii, Harris said.

Harris said it’s been about five years since Wake has been hit by a typhoon.

Ioke swirled about 900 miles east of Wake at midnight Saturday local time, rumbling west-southwest at 13 mph. Its 161 mph sustained winds and up to 198 mph gusts make it equivalent to a Category 5 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale.

If it remains on its Joint Typhoon Warning Center forecast track, Ioke will pass 58 miles northeast of Wake at around 10 p.m. Wednesday local time and remain at Category 5 strength, with 161 mph sustained winds and 198 mph gusts at its center. Harris said the islands were bracing for top winds of between 81 and 86 mph.

JTWC officials said it was too early to predict whether Ioke would continue west toward the Pacific Rim islands.

Wake sits about two-thirds of the way between the Marianas Islands and Hawaii. The unincorporated territory was annexed by the United States in 1899 as a cable station.

For two weeks after the Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, the Marine Corps’ 1st Defense Battalion under the command of Maj. James P.S. Devereaux held out heroically on Wake before surrendering the atoll to Japanese forces.

In later years, Wake was developed as a stopover and refueling site for military and commercial aircraft transiting the Pacific. Since 1974, it’s been used by the U.S. military and for emergency landings. A small detachment of about 200 people, mostly civilian contractors, inhabits the atoll; some have stayed for more than 20 years, Harris said.

Ioke spawned last week well to the south of the Hawaiian islands, developed into a hurricane and lashed Johnston Island last Wednesday, JTWC officials said.

The Associated Press reported that five Coast Guardsmen and seven Air Force contractors on the island took shelter from Ioke’s 105 mph winds in a bunker designed to weather a Category 4 storm.

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