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Posted at 01:44 PM ET, 09/14/2012

Violent super typhoon Sanba threatens Okinawa, South Korea

Satellite view of super typhoon Sanba early Friday morning ( NOAA )
Super typhoon Sanba, with peak winds of 155 mph, continues on its collision course with Okinawa and, eventually, South Korea. It’s positioned about 440 miles south of Kadena Air Force Base on Okinawa and moving north at about 13 mph. Strong winds could affect Okinawa as soon as Saturday evening local time.

Since yesterday, Sanba has waxed and waned in intensity a bit. At one point, its top winds climbed to an extraordinary 178 mph, the equivalent of powerful category 5 hurricane. Since then, some of the thunderstorms surrounding the storm’s eye have diminished and the maximum winds have dropped some.

The storm continues on a track to pass very close to Okinawa Sunday and South Korea Monday. Fortunately, some weakening is expected due to an “increasingly hostile upper level environment” says the Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC).

Forecast track for Sanba (Joint Typhoon Warning Center)
Nevertheless, JTWC predicts Sanba’s intensity will be around category 3 levels when in the vicinity of Okinawa and category 1 or 2 when it slams into South Korea.

Link: Okinawa weather radar

The Stars and Stripes Pacific Storm Tracker blog - which provides typhoon updates for Okinawa - is sounding the alarm. It urged residents to get ready, likening the storm to super typhoon Bart, which battered the island in 1999:

Assuming the worst and Okinawa gets pummeled by Sanba’s worst winds, we could be in for a very lengthy recovery period, several hours at least. At those wind speeds, thousands on and off base could be without power, some without water, whole trees, power lines, power poles and stoplights could be down.

. . .

Time to get your commissary, PX, ATM and gasoline stand on. Enough water, non-perishable food, pet food for your furry friends, diapers and sanitizer for the little ones and cash to last three days, at least, and fill the tank with gasoline.

. . .

Sanba is NO JOKE. This could be the next Bart; ask island longtimers what THAT was like. Prepare, prepare, prepare and prepare, in no particular order.

Bart killed two people on Okinawa and produced $5 million in damage on Kadena Air Base.

NBCNews says 80,000 U.S. citizens reside on Okinawa, 30,000 of which are military personnel. The island’s total population is 1.3 million people.

Infrared satellite view of Sanba near peak intensity Thursday
Sanba has proven to be an exceptional storm, meteorologically. Its minimum pressure dipped as far as 26.58” (900 mb) according to the Japan Meteorological Agency. AccuWeather says just one typhoon in the western Pacific was deeper in the last 10 years: Super typhoon Megi - whose pressure (885 mb) was the lowest since Vanessa in 1984.

Sanba’s intensity versus time. Note the rapid increase between 18z Wednesday (2 p.m. Tuesday EDT) and 18z Thursday (2 p.m. Thursday EDT) ( CIMSS Satellite Blog )
More impressive is that rate at which Sanba intensified. In just 48 hours, its peak winds increased from around 50 mph (tropical storm strength) to 178 mph (category 5 strength hurricane/typhoon).

By  |  01:44 PM ET, 09/14/2012

Categories:  Latest, International Weather, Tropical Weather

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