NEW POST WITH UPDATED INFORMATION: Click here - Monstrous super typhoon Usagi holding its own, Hong Kong braces for possible impact (3:19 p.m. ET, Friday)
Posted Thursday, 3:11 p.m. ET: In the last 24 hours, a cyclone in the west Pacific has explosively intensified, and is on a track towards Hong Kong.
The storm – named Usagi – has achieved super typhoon status, after an amazing burst in its peak winds from 75 mph Tuesday to over 160 mph today. (Typhoons become “super typhoons” if their peak winds reach 150 mph or higher). It is now equivalent to a category 5 hurricane.
Usagi is now the strongest storm to form on Earth in 2013, more intense than Utor (peak winds of 150 mph) and Soulik (peak winds of 145 mph), also west Pacific typhoons.
The storm’s satellite presentation is immaculate, perfectly symmetric and accentuated with a pin-hole eye.
As it heads due west, it is expected to maintain its strength for the next 24 hours. Then it might bend a bit to the north and begin to gradually weaken according to the Joint Typhoon Warning Center.
Usagi first has southern Taiwan in its sights. The center of the storm is forecast to pass just south of Taiwan, but its northeast quadrant – typically the most powerful, is likely to lash Taiwan’s south and east coast. Copious amounts of rain, damaging winds, and a substantial storm surge are possible there, particularly Saturday.
— Ryan Maue (@RyanMaue) September 19, 2013
By Sunday, the Joint Typhoon Warning Center predicts Usagi may come close to Hong Kong, although considerable uncertainty in the storm track means the storm could come ashore considerably to the northeast or southwest. Peaks winds – at that time – are forecast to have weakened to around 100 mph. But – until the track comes into better focus – local impacts are not possible to forecast.