Sunday, January 21, 2018

Mammoth typhoon threatens Taiwan, Hong Kong

Super Typhoon Usagi, the strongest storm on the planet, has peaked in intensity but remains an extremely dangerous cyclone as it continues on a collision course with southern Taiwan and Hong Kong.

The Joint Typhoon Warning Center says Usagi's maximum sustained winds are 150 mph, the equivalent of a Category 4 hurricane. That's down from at least 160 mph Thursday (Category 5 level). But this is a mammoth storm; tropical storm force winds span 275 miles across it.

On Thursday evening, a satellite-based estimate of its minimum pressure was an astonishingly low 882 mb, which would have made it the deepest and most intense storm to exist on Earth since 1984 (tied with Wilma in 2005).

The Joint Typhoon Warning Center predicts additional weakening as Usagi's circulation is disrupted by Taiwan. Usagi will batter Taiwan's south and east coast with damaging winds, torrential range, massive waves, and a dangerous storm surge today.

The storm's rain bands have already begun to lash coastal areas. It was packing a 24-hour rainfall accumulation of nearly 20 inches near its center. The storm could potentially come ashore near Hong Kong late Sunday. Confidence in the overall track is high but small deviations could push the brunt of the storm to Hong Kong's northeast or southwest.

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