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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Typhoon Saola, nearing Category 5 strength, threatens China


A satellite image showing typhoon Saola moving north toward Taiwan on Tuesday.

By Mike Ives


Typhoon Saola, a powerful tropical cyclone with wind speeds approaching those of the strongest Atlantic hurricanes, was passing close to Taiwan on Wednesday. It was also edging northward toward Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland.


Saola was about 111 miles southwest of Taiwan on Wednesday morning and producing some rain there, according to the island’s Central Weather Bureau. It was passing through a body of water, the Luzon Strait, that separates Taiwan from the Philippines.


The storm has already prompted evacuations in the Philippines and some school closures and travel disruptions in Taiwan, but it has not been linked to any deaths or injuries.


Saola was generating sustained winds of 155 mph on Wednesday, according to the Joint Typhoon Warning Center, a meteorological service operated by the U.S. Navy. That is 2 mph below a Category 5 storm on the five-tier wind scale that is used to measure tropical cyclones in The Atlantic.


Saola was more powerful than Hurricane Idalia, a storm that briefly reached Category 4 strength before making landfall in Florida on Wednesday morning. Idalia weakened to Category 1 strength by 11 a.m. ET.


Saola was also stronger than Hurricane Franklin, a Category 3 storm that was near Bermuda early Wednesday and has been producing life-threatening surf and rip currents along the coasts of that island and along the East Coast of the United States.


Hurricanes and typhoons are tropical cyclones with sustained winds of at least 74 mph. The term “hurricane” refers to tropical cyclones in The Atlantic basin; “typhoon” refers to ones that develop in the northwestern Pacific and affect Asia.


Typhoon Saola is named for an elusive species of wild ox that is native to parts of Southeast Asia.


Forecasters say it is hard to say exactly where — or if — the storm will make landfall. That is partly because Haikui, a tropical storm swirling farther east, might influence its trajectory. Saola could also be influenced by the annual summer monsoon, according to the Hong Kong’s Observatory, the meteorological agency for the Chinese territory.


The Philippine meteorological agency said that Saola would likely move parallel to the coast of the southern Chinese province of Guangdong on Saturday, and that a landfall in mainland China was possible on Sunday.


Either way, the agency said, the storm was expected to weaken as it moved through the South China Sea, becoming a tropical storm by Monday.

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