Taiwan and parts of Japan are bracing for super typhoon Maria, expected to make a close pass on Tuesday, packing winds in excess of 110 mph.
The typhoon is forecast to rake the northern end of Taiwan and to threaten lives and property in Japan's southern Ryukyu islands.
Schools and offices in Taiwan are closed on Tuesday in anticipation of the storm, whose strongest effects on the island were expected to be felt late Tuesday and early Wednesday. Taiwan's UNI Air cancelled some 70 domestic flights and Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific said it had cancelled about a dozen flights to and from Taipei, according to Agence France-Presse.
The storm, equivalent to a Category 4 hurricane, was expected to bring heavy rain and flash floods.
"Typhoon Maria is currently in an environment of very warm ocean water – up to 82-degree sea-surface temperatures – low wind shear and excellent outflowing winds aloft to its north.
By Tuesday, conditions will become less favorable, as Maria is expected to begin encountering some increased wind shear and somewhat lower ocean-heat content, which should induce a weakening trend.
However, given its current intensity, Maria will still be formidably strong as it tracks toward Japan's southernmost Ryukyu Islands, northern Taiwan and eastern China."
The storm approaches as record-breaking rain has already inundated southwestern Japan, bringing deadly flash flooding and mudslides that have killed nearly 150 people.