Typhoon Khanun hits Okinawa with devastating winds and severe flooding

Typhoon Khanun swirled across the East China Sea on Wednesday after battering Okinawa and nearby islands with more than 24 hours of huge waves, fierce winds and severe flooding, although the eye of the storm remained offshore. The storm, the second typhoon to hit East Asia in less than a week, left more than 30 people injured, paralyzed transportation and cut power to approximately 200,000 homes, the Associated Press reported.

Okinawa is Japan’s fifth largest island with a population of nearly 1.5 million and is home to Kadena Air Base, the largest US installation in the Asia-Pacific region.

Hundreds of flights were canceled at Okinawa’s Naha Airport after it lasted almost 30 hours of wind gusts of 60 to 100 mph, as the storm reached Category 4 strength south of Naha, fueled in part by record-warm ocean waters. Scenes of gusty, torrential rain were common, with widespread flooding reported, including at Kadena Air Base. Gusts as high as 105 to 115 mph was recorded and rainfall amounts were expected to reach up to 8 inches across the region.

“Civilian and first responders will now fan out to survey damage and establish safe zones,” the Stars and Stripes newspaper reported from Okinawa on Wednesday. “Give the people responsible for clearing away the damage the space they need to do so. It may take some time, given how strong this typhoon is.”

Typhoon Khanun arrived days after Typhoon Doksuri inundated eastern China with record rainfall, including 29.3 inches in Beijing, the city’s the heaviest rainfall in 140 years of recording. That storm was blamed for more than 20 deaths, forced the evacuation of at least 400,000 people in southern Fujian province and knocked out power to more than 1 million homes. The outer bands of Typhoon Khanun may bring more heavy rain to China’s east coast in the next few days.

As of Wednesday morning, Typhoon Khanun was approximately 114 nautical miles west of Kadena and was tracking west-northwest over the East China Sea with estimated peak winds of 115 mph, equivalent to a Category 3 hurricane. The storm exhibited an unusual structure with a double eye wall, looks like a small hurricane inside a bigger hurricanewith satellite imagery showing a roughly 90 nautical mile wide “moat” in between. Wind in both eyewalls was estimated at more than 100 mph.

The storm, which is expected to gradually weaken over the next few days, is expected to make a sharp turn to the north and then to the east well before the eye approaches the east coast of China, putting it on track to potentially affecting Okinawa and the nearby islands again Friday and Saturday with more heavy rain and wind gusts near 80 mph.

That official forecast predicts with “medium confidence” that peak winds will drop to 80 mph on Friday. Models are less confident about the track forecast, which has a “low confidence” range of three to five days.

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