Usagi’s projected path points storm toward Kyushu
August 2, 2007
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Gaining strength and growing in size, Typhoon Usagi continued its wobbly trek northwest between Okinawa and Iwo Jima on Tuesday, on course for possible Thursday landfall over Japan’s southwestern Kyushu Island, with Sasebo Naval Base a possible target.
At midnight Tuesday, Usagi swirled 719 miles east-southeast of Okinawa and 840 miles southeast of Sasebo, churning northwest at 11½ mph with sustained 121-mph winds and 150-mph gusts. Officials put the storm’s diameter at its widest point, north to south, at 1,150 miles.
If it continues moving on the track forecast by the Joint Typhoon Warning Center, Usagi will crash ashore near Kagoshima on Kyushu around 9 p.m. Thursday, lashing Sasebo 28 miles to its east at noon Friday with sustained 121-mph winds and gusts of up to 150 mph at its center.
Sasebo could get the brunt of the storm, and Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni to the east and perhaps even South Korea’s southeast coast could feel Usagi’s effects, said Capt. Jonathan Wilson, commanding officer of the 18th Wing Weather Flight at Kadena Air Base, Okinawa.
Computer models and dynamic aids used to track typhoons “are in good agreement,” Wilson said, on a northwesterly track taking Usagi well out of Okinawa’s way, 336 miles northeast at noon Thursday.
“However, Sasebo and Iwakuni, get ready,” Wilson said.
Sasebo planned to issue Tropical Cyclone Condition of Readiness 3 at 5 a.m. Wednesday, officials said, with the base bracing for destructive winds of 58 mph or greater within 48 hours. Iwakuni remained in TCCOR 4 on Tuesday.
Usagi is forecast to curve east of Sasebo before heading back out over open water in the Sea of Japan, but should come much closer to the base than Typhoon Man-yi did last month.
Man-yi battered Okinawa with 105-mph winds and more than 15 inches of rain July 15 and 16. Already beleaguered by seasonal monsoons, Kyushu got pounded July 17 by 30-plus inches of rain, causing flooding and damage to homes.
Though Sasebo escaped Man-yi’s wrath, it “was a good drill for us,” said base spokesman Chuck Howard.
Turning east of Sasebo would be “way more favorable in terms of geography and how the harbor sits,” Howard said. Mountains and hills to the north would shield the base from northerly winds associated with a typhoon’s western quadrants, whereas passing to the west would send southerly winds from a typhoon’s eastern quadrants right into Sasebo’s harbor.
Officials at Iwakuni said it was “too soon” to say what effect Usagi would have there, but they’re “following the progress of the storm,” said base spokesman Maj. Billy Canedo.
Usagi is forecast to rumble 93 miles west of Iwakuni and 112 miles southeast of Chinhae Naval Base, along South Korea’s southeastern coast, at 5 p.m. Friday, rapidly losing its punch as it interacts with land, but still packing 98-mph sustained winds and 121-mph gusts.
As it returns to open water, Usagi should remain well west of land. JTWC forecasts Usagi to pass 362 miles northwest of Yokota Air Base, Japan, around 5 p.m. Saturday.
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