Super Typhoon Neoguri: Okinawa, Japan in Path of Strongest Typhoon
Super Typhoon Neoguri, the strongest typhoon so far in the 2014 Western Pacific season, is an extremely dangerous tropical cyclone as it churns toward Okinawa and potentially other parts of Japan over the next couple of days.
The system became a typhoon – the Western Pacific equivalent of a hurricane – on Friday. Neoguri is currently turning northward about 340 miles south of Kadena Air Base, the U.S. Air Force installation on the island of Okinawa.
The U.S. Joint Typhoon Warning Center estimated Neoguri’s sustained winds to be as high as 155 miles per hour as of early Monday evening U.S. time (late afternoon Monday Japanese time), with higher gusts. This made Neoguri the equivalent of a high-end Category 4 on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.
When Neoguri’s winds reached an estimated 150 mph earlier Sunday, it earned the “super typhoon” designation from JTWC. Neoguri means “raccoon” in Korean, according to a Sydney Morning Herald report
Western Pacific Satellite
Neoguri will continue to spin over very warm waters in a favorable atmospheric environment, allowing it to potentially become a Category 5 tropical cyclone later Monday.
(INFOGRAPHIC: Category 5 Atlantic Hurricane Facts)
Neoguri had been forecast to pass dangerously close to Okinawa on Tuesday local time (late Monday night/early Tuesday morning U.S. time). The most recent forecasts have the center passing over 100 miles to the west of Okinawa while moving north. Still, that puts the island on the stronger right-hand side of the storm, with hurricane-force winds.
Americans stationed at Kadena Air Base are preparing for the potential of a destructive storm.
(MORE: Tropical Terms You Need to Know)
The base began evacuating aircraft to other bases in the Pacific Sunday in anticipation of the typhoon. Brig. Gen. James Hecker, 18th Wing commander, said in a statement on the base’s website: “I can’t stress enough how dangerous this typhoon may be when it hits Okinawa. This is the most powerful typhoon forecast to hit the island in 15 years; we expect damaging winds to arrive by early Tuesday morning.”
Hecker upgraded the Tropical Cyclone Condition of Readiness (TCCOR) to level 2, meaning 58-mph sustained winds are possible within 24 hours. Residents and base personnel have been asked to remove and secure all outdoor items immediately.
After passing Okinawa, Neoguri is then expected go on to affect parts of the Japanese mainland by Wednesday. Though it will weaken by then, winds could still be around 100 mph by the time it reaches the main islands of Kyushu, Shikoku and western portions of Honshu, home to tens of millions of people.
Neoguri is the strongest tropical cyclone of the year in the Western Pacific basin. The season’s first typhoon, Faxai, reached minimal typhoon status with 75-mph winds in early March. It did not affect land.
Heavy rains from an unrelated system have been drenching Kyushu, the southwesternmost of Japan’s four main islands, in recent days. According to the Japan Times, parts of Nagasaki recorded the heaviest rainfall in 50 years Thursday, with over six inches of rain falling in three hours. Flash flooding inundated houses in the city and landslides were reported.
Extremely heavy rainfall continued on the island Sunday, with nearly 10 inches of rain reported at Mount Shibi, Kagoshima Prefecture in 24 hours, according to public broadcaster NHK.
An April storm named Tapah was declared a typhoon by JTWC. However, the JMA said Tapah peaked as a “severe tropical storm” with winds slightly below the 74-mph threshold.
For official purposes, the World Meteorological Organization recognizes JMA as the principal agency charged with analyzing and forecasting tropical cyclones in the Western Pacific. In the Eastern Pacific and Atlantic basins, that designation is held by NOAA’s National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida.
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