From: Audrey McAvoy, Associated Press
Published September 1, 2006 12:00 AM

USAF Planes to Check Typhoon Damage

HONOLULU — The Air Force plans to fly planes over Wake Island after Typhoon Ioke passes, to see how much damage the storm inflicted on the mid-Pacific U.S. military refueling outpost.

Air Force planes evacuated all 200 of the island's residents on Monday in preparation for what forecasters are calling the most powerful central Pacific tropical storm in a decade.

Visual reconnaissance planes will head out after Ioke clears, said Maj. Clare Reed, spokeswoman for the 15th Airlift Wing at Hickam Air Force Base.

"We're hoping everything turns out well," Reed said. But she said senior Air Force officers would decide what to do with the facility if Ioke causes so much destruction that troops and workers couldn't return immediately.

Forecasters have predicted the storm would submerge the 2.5-square-mile island and demolish any non-concrete structures.

"This thing is so strong that it's just going to clean things out, unfortunately," said Tim Craig, National Weather Service lead forecaster in Honolulu.

The typhoon has lost little of its strength in recent days, packing winds of 155 mph and gusts of 190 mph as it headed toward Wake Island Wednesday.

Ioke was expected to pass closest to the isle around 8 p.m. Thursday. Hurricane force winds will likely start battering the island several hours before.

Forecasts called for the storm to head northwest toward Japan over the open ocean after it passes over Wake Island. It is likely to gradually lose some of its power in coming days. No populated islands lie in Ioke's immediate path.

Wake Island, 2,300 miles west of Honolulu and 1,510 miles east of Guam, is a U.S. military refueling outpost run by the Air Force.

Ioke is the first Category 5 hurricane to develop in the central Pacific since record keeping began in the early 1960s.

It also is the most powerful storm to pass through the central Pacific since hurricanes Emilia and Gilma, both in July 1994.

Source: Associated Press

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