Maysak poised to become year's strongest typhoon before striking Japan, South Korea

Maura Kelly

Typhoon Maysak is set to bring another round of tropical dangers to South Korea and Japan during the first few days of September.

An area of low pressure that was meandering over the Philippine Sea organized and strengthened Friday, becoming a tropical depression and then eventually Tropical Storm Maysak. Maysak continued to organize through the weekend, reaching typhoon strength Saturday night, local time. This tropical feature is also referred to as Julian in the Philippines.

The above infrared satellite image shows Typhoon Maysak spinning closer to the Ryukyu islands late on Monday, Aug. 31, 2020. (CIRA RAAMB)

Maysak continued to move through an environment favorable for tropical strengthening into Monday evening. This environment contained both warm waters and low wind shear.

As of Tuesday afternoon, local time, Typhoon Maysak contained sustained winds of 180 km/h (112 mph), known as a very strong typhoon and also equivalent to a high-end Category 3 hurricane in the Atlantic and East Pacific oceans.

The Ryukyu Islands are the first to experience Maysak's wrath, with rough seas, damaging winds, and wet weather across the islands of Okinawa to Amami Oshima.

In the early morning hours on Tuesday, local time, Okinawa Electric Power Company announced more than 28,000 households were without power.

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AccuWeather Lead International Meteorologist Jason Nicholls expects some slow but steady strengthening to continue.

"It is not out of the question for Maysak to briefly record winds of 185 km/h (115 mph) on Tuesday night or Wednesday, making it equal in strength to a Category 4 hurricane," Nicholls stated.

By midweek, Maysak is forecast to move northward through the East China Sea, missing China but slamming western Japan and the Korean Peninsula.

The most likely target for the brunt of Maysak's impacts will be near landfall in South Korea on Wednesday or Wednesday night. Maysak is forecast to be a powerful typhoon at the time of landfall.

Maysak is expected to bring with it damaging winds up to 175 km/h (110 mph) as well as heavy rainfall that can lead to flooding and mudslides in the already saturated area.

Coastal flooding will also be a concern for cities like Busan, which are expected to remain east of the typhoon's eye.

The current forecasts for Maysak could make the typhoon one for the record books.

Maysak is on track to become the strongest tropical system in the Western Pacific Ocean basin so far in 2020. As of the final day in August, this season's strongest tropical system in the basin was Bavi, strengthened to a typhoon on August 24 before slamming the Korean Peninsula for the following two days.

"As of Monday evening, Maysak had already tied Bavi's lowest pressure reading and the typhoon's winds are already closing in on speeds near Bavi's at its peak," Nicholls explained.

Additionally, Maysak is forecast to be the fourth named tropical system to make landfall in South Korea thus far in 2020. Should this happen, the four landfalls this season would tie the record number of landfalls in the country in a single year.

While Maysak is forecast to be influenced by a front in Russia on Thursday, and will likely lead to a loss of wind intensity for the system as it moves northward, rain and strong winds are likely to extend into North Korea, far northeastern China and far southern Russia.

Maysak is not alone in the Western Pacific Ocean, as a new tropical depression emerged in the basin on Monday.

This depression was located about 550 km (350 miles) east of Iwo, Japan, Monday evening.

At this time, AccuWeather meteorologists are also forecasting this depression to strengthen in the coming days, and it will eventually be given the name Haishen by the Japan Meteorological Agency.

Southern Japan and the Korean Peninsula are both possible targets of this budding tropical storm as early as this weekend.

A bicyclist stops to view fallen trees from a typhoon on a main road in Pyongyang, North Korea, Thursday, Aug. 27, 2020. A typhoon damaged homes and other buildings, flooded roads and toppled utility poles on the Korean Peninsula before weakening to a tropical storm. (AP Photo/Cha Song Ho)

Many of the areas being threatened by Maysak, and this next possible tropical storm, were hit hard by heavy rain and damaging winds from Bavi last week.

The most recent tropical system in the West Pacific basin strengthened into a typhoon on Monday, Aug. 24 and peaked in strength on Wednesday, Aug. 26, with winds equivalent to a Category 3 hurricane in the Atlantic and East Pacific basins.

Reports of downed trees and power lines, damage to buildings, flooded roadways, travel delays and power outages were common across the Korean Peninsula as the storm moved through on Thursday.

With the ground already beyond saturated, and trees already weakened some from Bavi, the compiled damage from Maysak could be even more widespread.

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