Typhoon Ma-on turns toward Japanese mainland
Stars and Stripes October 10, 2004
U.S. military bases on the Kanto Plain went into Tropical Cyclone Condition of Readiness 1 at about 4 a.m. Saturday as Super Typhoon Ma-on churned toward mainland Japan. It was expected to make landfall at about 5 p.m. near Hamamatsu, southwest of Tokyo in between Nagoya and Shizuhama.
“Provided it stays on course right now, we’re looking at Yokota to see upwards of 81 mph winds,” said Staff Sgt. Nicholas Bassett, a weather forecaster with the 374th Operations Support Squadron on Yokota Air Base. “Couple that with the massive amounts of rain we’ve gotten in last nine hours, and it could get messy.”
Yokota had been doused with more than 5 inches of rain overnight, he added, and Japanese forecasters predicted 10-12 inches for the Kanto Plain and east coast of northern Honshu.
Ma-on, Chinese for “horse saddle” and the name of a Hong Kong peak, was expected to lead with heavy rains from its outer bands.
“If it deviates much from the forecast model, we could see as little as 23-29 mph winds,” Bassett said. “But the rain will be pretty consistent. The winds would be less if it migrates east, but if it stays on course, we could get quite a bit.”
At 7:30 a.m. Saturday, Ma-on was about 450 miles south-southwest of Tokyo, moving north-northeast at 25 mph. The Category 5 storm had sustained winds of 155 mph with gusts to 190 mph.
The typhoon should have lost some punch before arriving as it collided with a jet stream over Japan, which was expected to shear the intense bands at the center, Bassett said.
“It’ll weaken before it gets here, but off the coast it’s pretty intense,” he added.
Maj. Neil Sanger, the 374th Operations Support Squadron’s weather flight commander, earlier said: “The typhoon could hit anywhere between Tokyo and Sasebo. All personnel in these areas need to be prepared for a typhoon in their area.”
But the potential for localized flooding remained very high.
“It’s been far enough out to sea where it hasn’t interacted with any of our bases yet,” Bassett said, “but we’ll get plenty of rain from this storm.”
A C-130 squadron on Yokota was evacuated to Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, and all Air Mobility Command flights were redirected to other destinations.
All remaining Yokota aircraft were moved into hangars as the airfield was cleared in preparation for the typhoon.
Heavy downpours drenched Okinawa early Friday, but conditions improved in the afternoon as isolated showers gave way to brief moments of sunshine.
With the typhoon making a sharp turn away from the island, U.S. military bases on Okinawa slipped back into their seasonal TCCOR-4 status at 4:05 p.m. Friday.
Still, the storm disrupted some activities. Friday’s high school football game between the Kadena Islanders and Kadena Buccaneers was shifted to Tuesday.
All three Okinawa Football League contests scheduled for this weekend were postponed until the end of the season, as rain associated with Ma-on rendered the Courtney Bowl, the organization’s lone venue, unplayable, Marine Corps Community Services officials said.
Dave Ornauer contributed to this report.