This visible image of Super Typhoon Sanba was captured by the MODIS instrument aboard NASA's Aqua satellite on Sept. 13, 2012 at 0450 UTC (12:50 a.m. EDT). (Photo : NASA)
Sanba, the monster storm system that was designated a super-typhoon on Friday has been downgraded to Typhoon status as of Saturday afternoon but is still expected to cause life-threatening conditions as it bears down on Okinawa, Japan and Japan's Ryukyu Islands Saturday night and on into Sunday.
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Weather experts forecast that Sanba will be packing Category 3-equivalent maximum sustained winds of 127 miles per hour with gusts up to 155 miles per hour as it crosses Okinawa in less than 24 hours. The storm is currently moving north-northwest in the Pacific Ocean at approximately 13 miles per hour.
NASA reports that it has analyzed recent weather satellite transmission data and says the storm is causing intense rainfall of up to three inches per hour. AccuWeather has said that up to two feet of rain could pound areas of Japan and South Korea that lie in the storm's projected path between Saturday night and Monday. Sanba-related storm surge is expected to cause major flooding in coastal areas. According to CNN, Sanba is causing waves in the Pacific that are swelling to a maximum height of 48 feet. The eye of the typhoon has been measured at 35 feet across.
"The bad news: I have never, in all my years of following tropical cyclones, seen a storm this intense here in the Pacific," Dave Ornaeur, a writer for Stars & Strips said in a recent report on Typhoon Sanba.
Residents in Japan and South Korea are preparing for the onslaught of rain and winds that Sanba will deliver over the next 48+ hours. Aviation officials in the Okinawa Prefecture of southern Japan have grounded at least 80 flights in anticipation of Sanba. All flights on Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines to and from Okinawa have been cancelled, affecting up to 17,000 passengers, according to reports from The Examiner.
According to the National Hurricane Center's Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, winds higher than 157 miles per hour, which are a distinct possibility for parts of coastal Japan, may cause "a high percentage of framed houses [to be] destroyed, with total roof failure and wall collapse. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last for weeks to possible months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months."
Okinawa sits in a very vulnerable area, but the city's infrastructure is designed to withstand the effects of very powerful storms since it is in an area of the Pacific where typhoons occur quite frequently.