Typhoon Goni strikes Okinawa

by Staff Sgt. Maeson L. Elleman, 18th Wing Public Affairs
Kadena Air Base

8/25/2015 - KADENA AIR BASE, Japan  -- Typhoon Goni reached its closest point near Okinawa Aug. 24, forcing U.S. service members and their families to batten down the hatches for most of the day to avoid damaging winds and a barrage of rain.

However, the typhoon, though strong toward its center, failed to strike the island directly, allowing residents to avoid the worst of the storm.

"When it passed by, it was the equivalent of a tropical storm - not even a Category 1 on-island," said Master Sgt. Tonya Trythall, 18th Operations Support Squadron weather flight chief. "The storm was equivalent to a Category 3 at its center, but it was 73 miles off-shore at its closest approach."

According to readings taken from around Okinawa, the highest sustained winds recorded reached 48 knots. On Kadena, however, gusts reached 66 knots, while readings taken on the eastern side of the island reached maximum gusts of 71 knots.
Typhoon Goni is one of a handful of storms that has passed close enough to Okinawa this season to cause residents to hunker down in their homes.

However, compared to other typhoons so far this year, the damage could have been worse had the eye passed closer, said Trythall.

"The storm was pretty strong at its center, but it was small," Trythall said. "Its winds didn't reach out as far as previous storms. Ishigaki Island got the brunt of the storm; the eye went right across the island, so readings there reached 130knot gusts."

Though it could've been worse, the winds Okinawa did receive were still strong enough to carry debris and projectiles, uproot trees and damage buildings.
 According to post-typhoon damage assessments, Kadena faired relatively well compared to similar storms in recent history.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Matthew McNut, 18th Civil Engineer Squadron emergency management craftsman, said most of the damage caused during typhoons is by the winds. Loose items such as trash cans, lawn ornaments or other small objects not properly tied down can become projectiles that can cause damage.

"Storms are unpredictable," he said. "The forecast can say it'll completely miss us, than less than two days out it can change to hit us directly and everyone will try to buy supplies at the last minute. It is important to make sure that you and your family are ready at a moment's notice."

Though the tropical cyclones have been known to occasionally hit off-season, Typhoon Season runs from June 1 to Nov. 30 each year.

During these months, the 18th Wing commander declares Tropical Cyclone Condition of Readiness-4 due to the potentially short notice before one of these storms hits the island.

As a result, service members from all branches of service and their families should retain the appropriate supplies on-hand to weather these storms.

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