A powerful super typhoon that is projected to hit Japan this weekend has been called the most powerful storm recorded in the world this year, packing a punch equivalent to a Category 5 hurricane with sustained winds of up to 166 mph (270 kph).
The super storm, named Vongfong, first brought rainfall, floods and damaging winds to the northern Marina Islands earlier this week. According to AccuWeather, wind gusts over 55 mph (89 kph) and rainfall over 3 inches (75 millimeters) were common.
"Vongfong is the strongest tropical cyclone we've had all year anywhere on Earth," said Jim Andrews, a meteorologist at AccuWeather.com.
The super typhoon has strengthened across the western Pacific Ocean thanks to a combination of warm water and wind shear. It is expected to pass through Okinawa and the Ryukyu Islands as early as Saturday and then potentially make landfall in mainland Japan early next week.
"How far west Vongfong is able to run will also determine whether there is a direct landfall in the island of Kyushu and thus the exact impact in cities such as Kagoshima," Andrews said.
According to Live Science, Vongfong is the fifth super typhoon to threaten the Pacific region this year. Both 2012 and 2013 had five super typhoons each, including Super Typhoon Haiyan, which devastated the Philippines and was one of the strongest typhoons ever recorded last year.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration noted that super typhoons typically have sustained winds of at least 150 mph (241 kph), making them as powerful as a hurricane in Category 4 or 5. According to Newsweek, typhoons can conjure waves up to 50 feet and leave widespread destruction.
Newsweek has reported that Okinawa, which is in the path of Super Typhoon Vongfong, is home to three quarters of U.S. military bases in Japan and hosts more than half of 47,000 U.S. troops stationed there. Military personnel and contractors at Kadena Air Base, along with other U.S. military installations on Okinawa, began stocking up on food, water supplies and fuel to prepare for the super typhoon, according to an article posted on NBC News.
Japan, which is the target of the super typhoon, had been previously hit last weekend by Typhoon Phanfone. USA Today reports that Phanfone left four people missing and killed seven people.
The peak season for typhoons in the Western Pacific runs from Late July through October.