Typhoon Maysak sideswiped the Japanese island of Okinawa on Monday, with wind gusts as high as 101 mph, and is forecast to intensify into the equivalent of a Category 4 storm as it moves toward eventual landfall in South Korea. Maysak is currently the equivalent of a strong Category 3 hurricane, and is traversing warm ocean waters in an environment that is favorable for further intensification, according to the Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC).
The storm is the second tropical system to head toward the Korean peninsula in a week, after Typhoon Bavi struck North Korea on Aug. 26. However, Maysak is expected to be more intense than Bavi was.
Though the storm’s center was passing about 50 miles west of the island, Okinawa experienced hurricane force wind gusts on Monday. At 10 a.m., Naha Airport recorded sustained winds of 47 mph, with a gust to 82 mph. Kadena Air Base observed sustained winds of 49 mph, with a gust to 77 mph.
Meteorologist Robert Speta, a forecaster in Jacksonville, Fla. who used to be with Japanese network NHK News, noted a 101-mph wind gust in Nanjo City, Okinawa on Monday morning Eastern Time.
While Okinawa is missing the most destructive part of the storm, the small island of Kumejima, has not been.
Storm chaser James Reynolds has positioned himself on the island, which is experiencing the eyewall of the storm, which is the area of the storm where its most intense winds and heaviest rainfall rates are typically located. A wind gust to 120 mph was recorded at the Kumejima Airport on Monday afternoon Eastern Time.
After its close call with Okinawa, the storm is forecast to intensify into the equivalent of a Category 4 storm on Monday afternoon, peaking at sustained winds of 140 mph — or possibly higher, before beginning to weaken due to cooler ocean waters and stronger upper atmospheric winds as it moves north-northeast toward South Korea. It may even become a super typhoon, which requires sustained winds of at least 150 mph.
Still, the typhoon is expected to pack a punch when it reaches Korea, potentially becoming just the sixth Category 2 or greater storm to make landfall in South Korea since 1959. The current track forecast brings the storm ashore with maximum sustained winds of 110 mph on Wednesday morning Eastern Time, to the southwest of Busan.
According to Sayaka Mori, a meteorologist for NHK World, the Korean Peninsula typically sees one landfalling storm per year, based on data since 1951. However, Maysak would be the fourth storm to strike so far this year in an otherwise quiet Western Pacific typhoon season. “This would tie the record number of landfalls” for the Korean Peninsula, Mori tweeted.
According to NOAA's database, only five Cat. 2+ equivalent #typhoons have made landfall in South Korea dating to 1959.— Jonathan Erdman (@wxjerdman) August 31, 2020
The last one prior to this year appears to have been Sanba (Sept. 2012). #Maysak may join that list Wed. night, local time. pic.twitter.com/6E51AZIRTV
Assuming the storm follows its forecast path, it’s likely that the center will past to the east of Seoul while weakening as it moves toward North Korea. Despite this weakening trend, Typhoon Maysak will bring the threat of damaging winds, heavy rains and storm surge flooding to South Korea and eventually North Korea as well.