- Japan's weather agency issues an emergency warning for remote island area
- "This is a beast," says CNN International Meteorologist Tom Sater
- It's forecast to pass west of Okinawa on Tuesday, sparing the islands its strongest winds
- But U.S. military officials warn the storm is very dangerous and urge personnel to prepare
A large super typhoon is gathering force as it barrels along a path that is expected to take it close to the Japanese island of Okinawa.
By the time it nears Okinawa early Tuesday, Super Typhoon Neoguri is likely to be generating winds as strong as a Category 5 hurricane, meteorologists say.
"This is a beast," said CNN International Meteorologist Tom Sater.
Okinawa, where multiple U.S. military facilities are situated, regularly finds itself in the path of big typhoons. Many of the buildings on the island are designed to weather the powerful winds that come roaring in off the Western Pacific.
Based on current predictions, Neoguri is expected to pass to the west of Okinawa, sparing the island its full fury.
"It'll brush Okinawa -- maybe Category 1, Category 2 winds," Sater said. "But they're ready for that."
Most powerful in 15 years
Authorities at Kadena Air Base, the largest U.S. military installation in the Asia-Pacific region, aren't taking any chances.
"I can't stress enough how dangerous this typhoon may be when it hits Okinawa," Brig. Gen. James Hecker, the Commander of the 18th Wing, said Sunday on the base's Facebook page. "This is the most powerful typhoon forecast to hit the island in 15 years."
He advised those on the base to secure outdoor items and prepare supplies.
"This is not just another typhoon," Hecker said. "If we all follow the typhoon procedures and take care of each other, we will all make it through this typhoon safely."
The Joint Typhoon Warning Center projects that by Tuesday, Neoguri could be producing sustained winds as strong as 165 mph (265 kph) with gusts as powerful as 200 mph (320 kph). It could stir up waves as high as 39 feet (12 meters), the center predicted.
The Japan Meteorological Agency on Monday issued an emergency warning for the region around Miyako Jima, a small Japanese island that lies between Okinawa and Taiwan. The agency warned of high waves and a storm surge.
Seen from space
Astronaut Reid Wiseman in the International Space Center tweeted a dramatic photo over the weekend of the typhoon viewed from above, showing vast bands of cloud spiraling out from its center.
"#Typhoon Neoguri nearing Japan. Takes up our entire view. Wow," he wrote.
After passing near Okinawa, the typhoon is expected to weaken somewhat as it moves on toward the Japanese mainland. But it could still be producing strong winds late Wednesday when it's forecast to hit Kyushu, the southernmost of Japan's main islands.
"It's still going to really pack a punch," Sater said. "This is a massive storm."
The typhoon is also expected to bring torrential rains with it to Kyushu.
"They've already had heavy amounts of rainfall in the past 24 hours," Sater said. "So a saturated ground with a system moving in is going to cause some issues."
Each summer and autumn, heavy storms roll in from the Western Pacific, often causing damage in East Asian countries such as the Philippines, China and Japan.