Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.
 / Updated 
By Henry Austin

The most powerful storm on the planet this year headed towards Taiwan and the east coast of mainland China on Thursday after leaving a trail of destruction in the the U.S. commonwealth of Saipan.

Soudelor "will hit Taiwan as a major typhoon [early Friday] so we could see some significant flooding rains, damaging winds and the tidal surges could be dangerous,” Weather Channel forecaster Michael Palmer said,

A handout photo released by Taiwan's Central Weather Bureau Thursday shows a satellite image of the Typhoon Soudelor moving from the Pacific Ocean towards Taiwan and China.TAIWAN CENTRAL WEATHER BUREAU / EPA

At its peak on Monday, Soudelor was estimated by the U.S. military's Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC) to pack maximum one-minute sustained winds of 180 mph and gusts to 220 mph, making it the strongest tropical cyclone on Earth so far in 2015.

Although it has weakened slightly since then, by the time it hits Taiwan “it is possible it could regain strength,” Michael said, who predicted winds could reach 135 mph when it makes landfall.

That would be just 15 mph below the sustained one-minute wind speeds of at least 150 mph required to class it as a super typhoon.

Taiwan is bracing itself by preparing emergency food and water supplies, the Taipei Times newspaper reported Thursday.

By the time it hits China it will have weakened, although high winds could still be expected, Palmer said.

Four days after it raked through Saipan, the most populated island in the U.S. territory of the Northern Marianas, residents were without water and electricity and were rationing gasoline.

"I haven't seen a storm like this in 20 years," Gregorio Kilili Camcacho Sablan, the commonwealth's delegate to U.S. Congress told the Associated Press. "Unfortunately, the resources we have are hardly enough to get things up."

He added that 10 generators were being shipped from Guam to power water pumps and said that restoring power could take a month or two.

The Associated Press contributed.