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Powerful typhoon Wipha eyes Tokyo, Japan

The western Pacific ocean has come alive with typhoons in recent weeks. The latest, typhoon Wipha, has its sights set on the east coast of Japan. With maximum sustained winds of 120 mph, Wipha is the equivalent of a category 3 hurricane.

Although it’s weakening and expected to lose its tropical characteristics on its voyage north and then northeast-bound, Wipha should still be a force as it nears some of Japan’s major population centers.

“Wipha will remain a strong and expansive extra-tropical system as it tracks along the eastern coast of Japan,” the Joint Typhoon Warning Center writes.

The Joint Typhoon Warning Center projects Wipha to make a very close approach to Tokyo Wednesday morning local time (Tuesday evening EDT), with maximum sustained winds still a formidable 80 mph.

The exact track of Wipha is critical. If its center passes just west of Tokyo, a large storm surge would affect the city of more than 35 million people and potentially bring major flooding. However, if it remains to Tokyo’s east over the Pacific, such an inland push of water would be avoided. The official forecast favors the less threatening ocean track.

Irrespective of the exact track and storm surge potential, flooding rains and damaging winds are a threat along Japan’s east coast from Osaka to Fukushima. The GFS weather model projects about 8 inches of rain in Tokyo between Tuesday and Thursday.

There’s an outside chance the storm remains far enough east to just give Japan a glancing blow, with little impact.

Wipha is the 12th typhoon and 26th named storm of the west Pacific typhoon season.

The eastern hemisphere has been a hotbed for tropical storm activity since late last week. In addition to Wipha, cyclone Phailin battered India over the weekend and typhoon Nari is landing in Vietnam.

Nari – a minimal typhoon – is weakening and heavy rain should be its main impact as it makes landfall in central Vietnam.