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Up-close and personal with Typhoon Meranti

After Taiwan, Super Typhoon Meranti headed for China

Tuesday, September 13, 2016, 3:47 - The latest data coming from the Joint Typhoon Warning Center shows that monster Super Typhoon Meranti is now the strongest in the western Pacific Ocean since Super Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines back in November 2013. 

Maximum sustained winds of 185 mph and gusts of 225 mph, together with an estimated central pressure of 900 millibars, will most likely make it the storm, or one of the storms, of 2016.

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This is the second typhoon to affect Taiwan in 2016. Back on July 7 of this year, a very similar typhoon, Nepartak, followed almost the same path devastating the southern part of the island and areas of eastern China. 

Nepartak was before impact a Super Typhoon, the equivalent to category 5 hurricane with sustained winds reaching 175 mph. Before Meranti, this was the most intense tropical cyclone in 2016. 

It caused three fatalities in Taiwan and over US$21 million in damage, but the impact was worse in eastern China with 83 fatalities and US$1.5 billion.

The eye of Meranti could spare Taiwan

The latest GFS model run and the JTWC forecast have slightly modified the trajectory of Meranti to the south of its original course. The eye of the storm should pass about 25 to 50 miles south of the southern tip of Taiwan, home to Kenting National Park, by 7 AM local time (7 PM EDT). However, the size of the typhoon is large enough to be well noticed as far north as Kaohsiung and Tainan, the two largest cities in southern Taiwan. Very heavy rainfall, mudslides, high surf and powerful winds will most like produce damage in many areas of the southern third of the island. Fortunately the areas closest to the eye of the storm are not heavily populated.

Meranti will have a much greater impact in China

Since Meranti will move just south of land and remain over the warm waters of the Sea of China, it will remain stronger than initially anticipated when the track crossed the hilly terrain of southern Taiwan. 

Yesterday it was predicted to be a category 2 storm before reaching mainland China, but now models are saying it will remain a category 3 to 4 typhoon, with sustained winds close to 130 mph. Model predictions have also varied the original track into China which now takes Meranti further south into the borderline between the provinces of Fujian and Canton. 

By late Wednesday and early Thursday, the eye of the storm should move south of Xiamen, and area that is still recovering from the impact of Nepartak a few months ago. Very strong winds, high surf, torrential rains and frequent mudslides along this very hilly country of southeast China will have a serious impact on millions of people in the area as the storm stalls as a weaker category 1 near the coast.

Typhoon Malakas to follow Meranti

Tracking to the west-northwest behind Meranti is Typhoon Malakas. It will be a category 1 on Wednesday but will rapidly intensify to category 2 or 3 on Thursday before curving to north-northwest. Malakas should spare northern Taiwan and move directly into the Okinawa Islands of southern Japan by Friday, although according to different model runs the trajectory could change before then.

We will keep a close eye on this new developing typhoon.

Credit: Joint Typhoon Warning Center

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