TAIPEI, Taiwan – The most powerful typhoon of the year was approaching the northern Philippines and southern Taiwan on Friday with ferocious wind gusts of up to 305 kilometers (190 miles) per hour. It was expected to skirt both regions, with authorities warning of torrential rains and destructive winds.
Super Typhoon Usagi had maximum sustained winds of 250 kph (155 mph) on Friday afternoon and was about 665 kilometers (413 miles) southeast of Taipei, Taiwan's capital, according to the U.S. Navy's Joint Typhoon Warning Center. A storm achieves super typhoon status when its sustained winds are at least 240 kph (150 mph).
The huge storm was on track to pass near the Batanes Islands, the northernmost part of the Philippines, as it moves across the Luzon Strait, close to Taiwan's southernmost Hengchun peninsula.
It was projected to move toward southern China, with the outer bands reaching near the Guangdong-Hong Kong coastline on Sunday. The storm is expected to weaken, and by Sunday is projected to have maximum sustained winds of 177 kph (110 mph).
Usagi had a massive diameter of 1,100 kilometers (680 miles), with its outer rain bands extending across the main northern Philippine island of Luzon and southern Taiwan. It was packing 24-hour rainfall accumulation of 500 millimeters (nearly 20 inches) near its center.
The Batanes Islands were placed under the highest storm alert, while lower warnings were raised in at least 15 northern Philippine provinces, where officials warned of flash floods, landslides and storm surges.