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CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Gaining strength and continuing to track to the west toward Okinawa, Typhoon Longwang appeared to be the “real deal” and may become the season’s first storm to actually hit the island, Kadena Air Base weather officials said Wednesday.

“It’s staying the course,” said Capt. Colin Reece, Kadena Air Base’s 18th Weather Flight commanding officer, adding that unlike four previous storms to threaten Okinawa but then give it only glancing blows, “this one’s pretty clear cut, one that’s finally going to hit us.”

Longwang should make its closest point of approach sometime Saturday evening. Though categorized as a “small to average-sized storm” by the Joint Typhoon Warning Center, it could deliver winds gusts of from 86 mph to 98 mph to Okinawa on Saturday, Reece said.

“It’s not as big as Nabi,” he said of the Labor Day storm that at one time reached super typhoon status, “but it’s bigger than some of the ones we’ve seen this year. It’s big enough. You look at the gusts, it’s a potentially very dangerous storm.”

Reece said the island would enter Tropical Cyclone Condition of Readiness 3 at 8 a.m. Thursday, meaning winds of 58 mph or greater were expected within 48 hours. TCCOR 2 is expected to be declared at 8 a.m. Friday followed by TCCOR 1 at 8 p.m. Friday.

At 9 p.m. Wednesday, Longwang was 587 miles east-southeast of Okinawa and had made a slight course change, turning due west after tracking west-northwest for two days. It was moving at 7 mph with sustained winds of 138 mph and gusts up to 167 mph — equivalent to a Category 4 Western-hemisphere hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale.

If it follows the track forecast by the Joint Typhoon Warning Center, Longwang’s eye would pass about 100 miles south of Okinawa at 8 p.m. Saturday, packing sustained winds of 132 mph and gusts of up to 161 mph — still Category 4 strength.

Crosswinds and isolated showers associated with the storm probably will begin hitting the island as early as Thursday evening, Reece said, with winds picking up to 40 mph on Friday and continuous rainfall and increased winds starting Saturday. He said it was too early to tell how long the rains and wind would last.

A pair of competing weather fronts over China could alter Longwang’s course, Reece said. A low-pressure trough stretching from east China into the Korean peninsula could keep Longwang moving toward the island, while a high-pressure center over southeast China could force it to move to the south and west.

The competing weather fronts “will ultimately dictate which way the thing goes,” Reece said. “But the current track is looking pretty good.”

Longwang, the 19th storm of the northwest Pacific’s tropical cyclone season, is a Chinese word for Dragon King, the god of rain in ancient Chinese mythology.

Monitor Typhoon Longwang’s forecast track and wind speeds athttp://www.npmoc.navy.mil/jtwc/warnings/wp1905.gif.

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