Typhoon veers away from Okinawa
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — High pressure extending from China into the East China Sea forced Super Typhoon Longwang to begin tracking further south and west than originally forecast, meaning if the storm stays on its current course it likely could miss Okinawa altogether, Kadena Air Base weather officials said Thursday.
A pair of weather fronts have been competing, said Capt. Colin Reece, commanding officer of Kadena’s 18th Weather Flight: a low-pressure trough to the north and east of Okinawa and a high off China.
“The high won out,” Reece said.
The high “strengthened and overpowered or was stronger than the low trough and it became the steering mechanism that pushed it on more of a westerly track” which would carry it well to the south of Okinawa, he said.
The storm was upgraded to a super typhoon Thursday evening.
Initially, Longwang was forecast to make a west-northwesterly beeline toward Okinawa and lash the island with winds of up to 98 mph and continuous rainfall throughout the weekend.
But the storm began deviating due west overnight Wednesday and at 3 p.m. Thursday the Joint Typhoon Warning Center forecast Longwang to come only as close as 240 miles south of the island at 10 a.m. Saturday.
Elevated Tropical Cyclone Conditions of Readiness were not expected to be declared “at this point, especially with the CPA (closest point of approach) being that far away,” Reece said.
Okinawa could expect maximum wind gusts of from 40 mph to 46 mph over the weekend, Reece said. If the storm tracks further north, the island could get wind gusts up to 52 mph “but no more than that, worst case, at this point.”
Rainfall will be “minimal,” Reece said.
“We will be out of the core of continuous precipitation bands,” he said. “We’ll see some isolated showers from the very outer portions of the feeder bands, starting early Saturday morning and potentially lasting into late evening Sunday.”
Longwang, Chinese for Dragon King, the god of rainfall in ancient Chinese mythology, is the 19th storm of the northwest Pacific’s tropical cyclone season and the fifth to pose a significant weather threat to Okinawa.
The previous four offered little more than glancing blows to the island. TCCOR 1C (caution), during which winds of 58 mph or greater are imminent, is the highest condition of readiness declared so far this season, when Typhoon Nabi approached on Sept. 4.
At midnight Thursday, Longwang was 466 miles east-southeast of Okinawa, crawling due west at 7 mph, packing sustained winds of 150 mph and gusts up to 184 mph, equivalent to a Category 5 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale.
If it continues moving as forecast, Longwang would diminish slightly into a Category 4-equivalent storm as it approaches Taiwan, with the eye passing 60 miles south of Taipei at 6 p.m. Sunday, packing sustained winds of 115 mph and gusts of up to 144 mph.
It would become the third tropical cyclone to strike Taiwan in a period of two months.
Longwang is expected to weaken into a Category 1-equivalent storm as it crosses Taiwan and the Formosa Strait, making landfall at 2 p.m. Monday 290 miles northeast of Hong Kong, maintaining sustained winds of 69 mph and gusts of up to 86 mph.
Follow Typhoon Longwang’s forecast track and wind speeds at http://www.npmoc.navy.mil/jtwc/warnings/wp1905.gif.