Typhoon Usagi veers toward Iwakuni
See the NOAA infrared satellite image of the storm here.
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Typhoon Usagi veered onto a Friday morning collision course with Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, a track that will apparently spare Sasebo Naval Base in southwestern Japan and Chinhae Naval Base in South Korea its wrath.
At midnight Wednesday, Usagi churned 443 miles east-northeast of Okinawa, 472 miles east-southeast of Sasebo and 477 miles southeast of Iwakuni, rumbling northwest at 16 mph with sustained 132-mph winds and 161-mph gusts — equal to a Category 4 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale.
If it continues on the track forecast by the Joint Typhoon Warning Center, Usagi will roar almost directly over Iwakuni, passing just 10 miles east at 4 a.m. Friday. Sustained 98-mph winds and 120-mph gusts are forecast as it tracks over Iwakuni.
Iwakuni and Sasebo each declared Tropical Cyclone Condition of Readiness 2 on Wednesday evening. Chinhae Naval Base in South Korea appeared out of Usagi’s way, a Commander, Naval Forces Korea spokeswoman said.
Weakening high pressure to the east of Japan “allowed Usagi to pull” more to the north-northwest than originally forecast, said Capt. Jonathan Wilson, 18th Wing Weather Flight commanding officer at Kadena Air Base, Okinawa.
If the track continues to deviate and Iwakuni receives the full brunt of either the east or west eyewall, “Iwakuni could be in a very similar situation that we were with Man-yi, and pretty close to about the same strength as it’s passing through,” Wilson said. Man-yi’s eastern eyewall pounded Okinawa July 13 with 105-mph gusts and more than 15 inches of rain .
Iwakuni entered TCCOR 3 at 9 a.m. Wednesday, base spokesman Maj. Billy Canedo said. TCCOR 2 followed at 9 p.m., weather officials said. Among other actions, base officials activated the Typhoon Coordination Center and began hangaring, tying down or making plans to evacuate aircraft as well as tying down boats and recreational craft as needed. The base’s 7-day stores continued limited operation, but alcohol sales were discontinued.
Though Usagi was forecast to swerve 137 miles east of Sasebo at 11 p.m. Thursday, officials there were taking no chances, base spokesman Chuck Howard said. The base entered TCCOR 3 at 5 a.m. Wednesday and TCCOR 2 at 7 p.m.
Weather officials said some wind gusts exceeding 58 mph and rainfall of between 6 and 8 inches was possible.
As a precaution, the Military Sealift Command’s oceanographic survey ship USNS Bruce C. Heezen, amphibious transport dock ship USS Juneau and dock landing ship USS Tortuga were sent underway in advance of the storm, Howard said. The minesweepers USS Patriot and Guardian were tied down in dry dock. Tugs stood by in case the amphibious assault ship USS Essex needed to be moved to Sasebo’s harbor basin, where the salvage ship USS Safeguard already was in place, Howard said.
“We don’t mess around with these,” Howard said, adding that the base commissary was opening two hours earlier than usual this week to give people a chance to stock up.
Usagi is forecast to slam ashore around 9 p.m. Thursday near Oita on Kyushu Island’s east shore, packing sustained 110-mph winds and 132-mph gusts at its center. After lashing Iwakuni, Usagi is forecast to veer sharply northeast into the Sea of Japan and rapidly dissipate as it crosses Hokkaido back into the Pacific Ocean at mid-afternoon Sunday.
U.S. Forces Japan issued TCCOR Storm Watch for Yokota Air Base, Camp Zama, Naval Air Facility Atsugi and Camp Fuji at 1 p.m. Wednesday. But Usagi’s closest point of approach to the Kanto Plain is forecast for 255 miles northwest of Camp Fuji at midnight Friday.
Even northeastern Misawa Air Base could feel some of Usagi’s remnants – it’s forecast to churn 13 miles north of Misawa at 4 p.m. Saturday, with sustained 46-mph winds and 58-mph gusts.