The Central Weather Bureau yesterday warned residents in eastern, southern and central Taiwan to brace for heavy rainfall and strong winds, saying Typhoon Usagi had gathered strength as it approached the nation.
The bureau issued a land alert yesterday morning, less than 12 hours after issuing a sea alert late on Thursday night.
In view of the potential disasters caused by Usagi, both the Hualien County Government and Taitung County Government yesterday canceled work and classes today.
As of 5:30pm, the center of Usagi was 380km southeast of Oluanpi (鵝鑾鼻), with its radius expanded to 280km. It was moving northwest at 19kph.
The maximum wind speed near the center of the typhoon was 198kph. That is the same maximum wind speed recorded for Typhoon Haitang in 2005, Typhoon Zeb in 1998, Typhoon Irving in 1997 and Typhoon Forrest in 1994 — which made them the second-strongest typhoons in the nation over the past 20 years, bureau data showed.
The strongest typhoon to hit the nation during the same period was Typhoon Doug in 1994, with the maximum wind speed near the center reaching 208.8kph.
Except for Typhoon Irving, for which the bureau only issued a sea alert, the four other typhoons caused casualties and severe financial damage.
Wu Wan-hua (伍婉華), a senior technical specialist at the bureau’s weather forecast center, said the radius of the typhoon reached land last night.
The land alert covers Lanyu (蘭嶼), Green Island (綠島), Taitung, thwe Hengchun Peninsula, Pingtung, Hualien, Greater Kaohsiung, Greater Tainan, Nantou and Chiayi, the bureau said.
Yilan residents should also prepare for heavy rainfall, although the county is not covered by the land alert, it said.
Sea vessels operating in the Bashi Channel, the Taiwan Strait, off the nation’s southeast and northeast coasts or near the Pratas Islands (Dongsha Islands, 東沙島) were also warned to be on high alert.
The bureau forecast that rainfall in the mountainous areas in Hualien and Taitung could hit 1,100mm, while the Hengchun Peninsula could expect extreme torrential rainfall topping 1,000mm.
Rainfall in Greater Kaohsiung and Greater Tainan could reach 800mm and 900mm respectively, while downpours in Nantou could hit a high of 600mm.
Lanyu is forecast to experience the strongest wind at level 17 on the Beaufort scale, which refers to wind speeds of 201kph to 220kph.
Meanwhile, Pingtung, Hengchun Peninsula, Hualien and Taitung are likely to experience strong winds exceeding level 12 on the Beaufort scale, the bureau said.
Wu said people on the west coast would start seeing an increase in rainfall this afternoon, while rain in the east coast would continue today.
Taipei residents should also watch out for occasional strong winds, she added.
Because the typhoon is coming at a time that coincides with the spring tide, Wu said that flooding could occur in some low-lying areas.
Those scheduled to travel overseas today are advised to contact airlines for the latest flight information.
The typhoon is expected to move away from the nation tomorrow afternoon, the bureau said.