Typhoon Morakot lashes Okinawa
Stars and Stripes August 8, 2009
NAHA, Okinawa — The outer edge of Typhoon Morakot roared past Okinawa early Thursday afternoon, lashing the island with wind gusts as high as 65 mph and stranding thousands of summer holiday air travelers.
One of those passengers was Marine Corps Maj. Todd Harding, whose wife Erin was critically injured in a hit-and-run car accident on July 23 near Camp Foster. She was medevaced to Balboa Naval Hospital in San Diego.
Harding was to join her early Friday, but his connecting flight to Narita International Airport near Tokyo didn’t get off the ground. He was rescheduled to leave Friday.
“I just want to get to my wife. That’s my main concern,” he said.
U.S. bases on Okinawa reverted to seasonal Tropical Cyclone Condition of Readiness 4 at 5 p.m. The center of the ninth named storm of the season rumbled 210 miles south of Okinawa at 2 p.m., packing Category 1 hurricane-strength winds, with gusts of 115 mph.
Though Morakot kept moving rapidly toward Taiwan, 18th Wing Weather Flight officials at Kadena Air Base said more wind and rain, from 4 to 6 inches, are still forecast for Okinawa into the weekend.
“There’s more precipitation on the back end” of the storm, weather flight superintendent Senior Master Sgt. Brian McDonald said.
Less than an inch had fallen through Thursday afternoon, McDonald said. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma experienced the most fierce gusts — 65 mph — and Kadena endured gusts of 56 mph.
Naha International Airport, which serves thousands of DOD personnel each year, experienced east crosswinds of 50 mph, almost completely shutting down the airport. Domestic and international airlines reported 252 flights canceled, stranding 41,648 passengers at the peak of the summer Obon holidays.
Officials at Marine Corps Base Camp Butler and Kadena Air Base reported no significant damage, injuries or deaths related to Morakot.
Some Kadena-based aircraft were evacuated ahead of the storm, while most were put into hangars and shelters, base spokesman 1st Lt. Bryan Boucher said.