Super Typhoon Vongfong — the strongest tropical cyclone of the year — calmed slightly as it made a northward turn Thursday, but the massive storm is still expected to belt the Japanese islands, including those that are home to U.S. military bases.
Vongfong's winds were estimated at a steady 150 mph, equivalent to a Category 4 hurricane. The storm will continue to weaken slowly as it moves north, according to Weather.com, losing super typhoon status but still packing a powerful punch by the time it approaches the islands of Kadena and Okinawa. At its current rate, the storm will strike the U.S. military islands on Saturday and Sunday, followed by landfall on Japan itself sometime Monday night.
"It's safe to say Vongfong is the strongest storm on earth since Haiyan last year," said Michael Lowry, a storm specialist for The Weather Channel, referring to the super typhoon that killed more than 6,000 people in the Philippines last November. Kadena Air Base — home to 24,000 U.S. and Japanese military personnel and contractors — and the cluster of U.S. bases on Okinawa began stocking up on food, water supplies and fuel, the Navy's Joint Typhoon Warning Center said Thursday morning, reporting that ocean waves were already as high as 50 feet.
— M. Alex Johnson