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US Bases on Okinawa Brace for Impact as Most Powerful Typhoon in 5 Years Approaches Island

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — The U.S. military on Okinawa is cleaning up, battening down and making ready for Typhoon Khanun’s expected arrival Wednesday morning.

The storm, with the strength of a Category 4 hurricane, is expected to pass 64 miles southwest of Kadena Air Base around 5 a.m. Wednesday, the 18th Wing Weather Flight said by email Friday.

Exchange gas pumps are covered in waterproofing at Camp Foster, Okinawa, Monday, July 31, 2023, in preparation for Typhoon Khanun. (Frank Andrews/Stars and Stripes)

“It’s the worst storm, forecasted, we’ve had in five years,” Air Force Capt. William Hanson, weather flight commander, said by phone Monday. “Definitely review the typhoon guide and get prepared.”

Khanun at 3 p.m. Monday was 349 miles southeast of Kadena, according to the Joint Typhoon Warning Center. The storm was just shy of becoming a super typhoon and moving north-northwest at 10 mph with sustained winds of 132 mph and 161 mph gusts at its center.

It is expected to bring 6 to 9 inches of rain, according to the weather flight.

U.S. military planners are predicting minor damage, possible power outages and flooding in low-lying areas.

Khanun’s strength may exceed Hinnamnor, which lashed the island with 74-mph gusts and 7 to 8 inches of rain in September, Hanson said. That storm caused power outages across Marine Corps Camp Courtney near the island’s eastern coast.

Marines, sailors, civilian employees and their families at Camp Foster cleaned up their yards, buttoned up their homes and made last-minute commissary runs on Monday.

Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Cidney Johnson, 23, a preventive medicine technician who arrived at Foster in March, was originally “very concerned” ahead of her first typhoon, but more experienced friends allayed her fears, she said.

“I prepared on Sunday; I got a little bit more snacks but other than that, I’m good,” she said Monday at Foster’s commissary. “I’ve been charging up my electronics at home. I got water.”

Marine Cpls. Isaak Peavey and Keagan Stutz said they were unconcerned. The pair, both with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 262 at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, lived through their share of hurricanes while stationed at Naval Air Station Pensacola in 2021.

“They’ve got [Meals, Ready-to-Eat] at the barracks so it’s really just fresh water that I’m worried about,” Stutz, 21, said as he entered Foster’s commissary.

U.S. bases on Okinawa entered Tropical Cyclone Condition of Readiness 2 at 6 p.m. Sunday, meaning destructive winds were anticipated within 24 hours. Condition of Readiness 1-C, or sustained winds of 40-56 mph, was expected around 3 a.m. Tuesday.

The III Marine Expeditionary Force on Sunday moved its aircraft into hangars and prepared tactical vehicles, spokesman Capt. Brett Dornhege-Lazaroff wrote in an email Monday. The command was prepared to cancel all nonessential activities at readiness condition 1.

Airmen at Kadena had cleared the base of debris and prepared aircraft for the storm, 18th Wing spokesman Tech Sgt. Soo Kim wrote in an email Monday. He declined to say whether aircraft would be relocated.

Spokesmen for the Navy’s Task Force 76 and 7th Fleet could not be reached for comment Monday, but Candice Barber, spokeswoman for Fleet Activities Okinawa, said all ships have departed from White Beach Naval Facility.

The 18th Wing, III MEF and Marine Corps Installations Pacific plan to release updates on their respective Facebook pages throughout the storm, Dornhege-Lazaroff said.

Source : Stripes