Wukong slowed and weakened into a tropical depression Friday afternoon but not before lashing Sasebo Naval Base in southwestern Japan with wind gusts of up to 50 mph and heavy rain, disrupting the airline flights of thousands flying into and out of Kyushu Island.

Sasebo remained in Tropical Cyclone Condition of Readiness Storm Watch, while Iwakuni Marine Corps Air Station well to the east stayed in TCCOR 3 and Chinhae Naval Base, along South Korea’s southeastern coast, remained in TCCOR 4.

Wukong, the 11th of 12 storms so far in the northwest Pacific’s tropical cyclone season, swirled 29 miles east-northeast of Sasebo at midnight Friday, crawling due north at 4.5 mph. Its sustained winds had diminished to 34 mph with 46-mph gusts at its center.

Base officials reported no significant damage. By Friday evening 2 inches of rain had fallen and it was continuing into the evening.

No U.S. Navy vessels left port during the storm, said base spokesman Chuck Howard, while a handful of Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force ships moved out of the harbor mouth to ride out the storm.

While winds were brisk enough to render umbrellas useless, “we haven’t seen any tree limbs snapped off or anything like that,” Howard said. “I saw a motorcycle cover moving down the road at high speed, but that was about it.”

Outside the gate, commercial air traffic Friday into and out of Kyushu’s seven domestic airports suffered daylong disruptions.

By Friday evening, Japan Air Lines reported that 60 of its and its affiliates’ domestic flights into and out of Kyushu were canceled, as were 32 of All Nippon Airways’ flights. Scores of flights were delayed; others were diverted to other airports. More than 10,000 passengers were stranded.

At midday, Japan Air Lines and its affiliates reported 31 domestic flights were canceled, stranding about 4,500 with more cancellations expected.

Meanwhile, All Nippon Airways had canceled 34 flights into and out of Kyushu by 1 p.m., affecting about 3,500 passengers. More cancellations and delays were expected.

Iwakuni weather officials reported the strongest wind gusts, 31 mph, at 8:58 a.m., and recorded 2.17 inches of rain through Friday evening inches of rain, with precipitation forecast to continue into the weekend. Wukong passed 128 miles west of Iwakuni at 11 p.m. Friday.

The Joint Typhoon Warning Center forecast Wukong will continue weakening as it exits Kyushu and darts across the Tsushima Strait toward landfall 4 miles west of Chinhae at 9 p.m. Saturday, with sustained winds of 23 mph and 34-mph gusts.

Kimhae International Airport just west of Busan, South Korea, reported three of four international flights between there and Fukuoka International Airport on Kyushu were canceled due to the storm. All of Kimhae’s other 118 domestic and 46 international flights departed or arrived as scheduled.

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Dave Ornauer has been employed by or assigned to Stars and Stripes Pacific almost continuously since March 5, 1981. He covers interservice and high school sports at DODEA-Pacific schools and manages the Pacific Storm Tracker.

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