Satellite image of Neoguri (NOAA)

The first super typhoon of 2014 is currently battering Okinawa and is on a collision course with southwest Japan.  Named Neoguri – meaning “raccoon” in Korean – the potentially destructive storm has peak winds of 150 mph.

In recent hours, the storm has weakened modestly due to both a structural re-organization known as an eyewall replacement cycle and some dry air wrapping into its center.  But the sprawling cyclone is forecast by the Joint Typhoon Warning Center to re-intensify, with maximum sustained winds reaching as high as 160 mph in about 24 hours.  Should it achieve this intensity, it would match the strongest storm on the planet so far in 2014 (tropical cyclone Gillian, from the Australia cyclone region).

WeatherBell Analytics meteorologist Ryan Maue, calling Neoguri a “run-of-the-mill super typhoon”, is skeptical it will attain such extreme intensity. “Its [large] size is working against it,” Maue said. “I’m not buying the eyewall replacement cycle bringing it back to life.”

Irrespective of short-term increases or decreases in strength, the storm should begin to steadily weaken in 36 hours as it moves into cooler water and makes landfall in southwest Japan.

For the moment, the storm is buffeting Okinawa and surrounding islands. The Stars and Stripes blog reports: “Actual winds between 40 and 56 mph are occurring.”

American storm chaser Josh Morgerman is positioned on the tiny Japan island of Kumejima about 90 kilometers west of Okinawa, where he reports deteriorating conditions:

Links: Radar views of typhoon: Miyakojima | Okinawa

This region – known as the Miyako Islands – is predicted to experience the worst of the super typhoon. Reports Mashable’s Andrew Freedman:

Japan has issued its highest weather alert for these islands, anticipating major damage. Specifically, the JMA issued its first-ever “emergency weather warning” for Miyakojima Chiho, which is expected to be close enough to the storm to experience its eyewall, where the worst winds and highest waves will be located. Waves of 45 to 50 feet in height may hit the Miyako Islands, with similar wave heights possible in Okinawa, depending on the storm’s exact path.

Landfall in southwest mainland Japan should occur around July 9 local time.

“Though it will weaken by then, winds could still be over 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,” predicts The Weather Channel.

Jeff Masters of Weather Underground expects significant flooding when the storm comes ashore:

Nagasaki had upwards of 8 inches of rain on Thursday, and parts of Kyushu saw 10 inches of rain on Friday, thanks to a stalled stationary front over the island. With the soils already saturated from these heavy rains, the torrential rains from Neoguri are sure to cause major flooding on Wednesday and Thursday.

Much of Japan is likely to be impacted, as the projected track carries the storm right through its heart. While areas in southwest Japan like Sasebo bear the brunt of the storm, torrential rain and strong winds will blast through the country, including Kyoto and Tokyo.

Neoguri track forecast (Joint Typhoon Warning Center)

Neoguri is the third typhoon of 2014 in the West Pacific.