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Tropical Storm Nepartak forms east of Japan, could impact Tokyo Olympics

By
Lauren Fox, AccuWeather, Accuweather.com
Fireworks conclude the Opening Ceremony after the lighting of the Olympic Flame for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo on Friday. Photo by Mike Theiler/UPI | License Photo

July 23 (UPI) -- The 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo have already been postponed by an entire year due to the coronavirus pandemic, and now Tropical Storm Nepartak in the Philippine Sea could put some events at risk of being delayed again.

A tropical depression formed on Friday morning north-northeast of Guam and the Mariana Islands, and continued to strengthen, eventually becoming a tropical storm late Friday local time. The storm is forecast to move northward over the weekend before taking a sharp turn westward toward mainland Japan.

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As of late Friday, Nepartak had 10-minute sustained winds of 40 mph and was slowly drifting to the north.

"While it's still too early to have high confidence in the exact track and intensity of this system, there are early indications that it could threaten Tokyo later Monday or Tuesday, local time," AccuWeather meteorologist Jake Sojda said.

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AccuWeather forecasters say the system is expected to remain the equivalent of a tropical storm by the time it makes landfall along the eastern coast of Japan. While wind shear could limit the storm's development, the system reaching typhoon strength upon its arrival onshore has not yet been ruled out.

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The tropical threat comes as the 2020 Summer Tokyo Olympic Games get underway. The global spectacle began on Friday and will end Aug. 8.

"The greatest impact to the games would obviously come from a direct hit on Tokyo, where the majority of venues and events are located," Sojda said. "However, even if the storm tracks farther north or south of Tokyo, there are some venues located farther away from the greater Tokyo metroplex that could still be impacted."

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The handful of events that are being held on the island of Hokkaido are unlikely to experience any impacts from this tropical system.

Any tropical development making landfall in Japan as the games persist could spell trouble -- and possibly even the postponement of some events.

"Outdoor events will bear the greatest risk, as heavy rain and gusty winds could cause postponement," Sojda said.

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Water sports could potentially become very dangerous if any tropical event brings a rough surf to the coast, which could arrive a day or two before the actual storm and remain along the coast for up to two days after the storm has passed, he added.

Depending on the intensity of the storm system, even some indoor events could be put at risk, especially if the storm creates winds heavy enough to cause power outages or down trees and power lines. Even more structural damage or flash flooding is possible and could throw the games in for a loop.

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In modern Olympic history, 67 events in total have been postponed due to bad weather. All of those postponed events, aside from one in 1906 that took place in the Intercalated Games which are no longer considered official Olympic Games, took place during a Winter Olympics.

If any events need to be postponed in Tokyo due to tropical weather, it would be the first documented time an event in a Summer Olympics is postponed due to weather.

Flash flooding, localized wind damage, power outages, rough surf and beach erosion are all potential impacts from this storm system, but aside from the Olympics, Sojda said impacts of the storm system on Japan don't look like they will be particularly significant overall.

As the storm track currently stands, he added, Japan is the only nation that will likely endure any impacts from the storm system.

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