Meranti, strongest typhoon of the year, hits Taiwan

TAIPEI, Taiwan – Parts of Taiwan were brought to a standstill Wednesday, September 14, as the strongest typhoon of the year skirted past the island's southern tip, knocking out power for more than 180,000 households. 

Although super typhoon Meranti (Philippine codename Ferdie) did not make landfall, the storm brought record strong winds and torrential rains to eastern and southern Taiwan. 

At 0215 GMT, Meranti was 30 kilometers southwest of southernmost Hengchun township, packing gusts of up to 263 kilometers (163 miles an hour).

Hengchun's observation station recorded the strongest winds in its 120 year history earlier Wednesday, according to Taiwan's Central Weather Bureau.

"Meranti will have its most significant impact on Taiwan today," said forecaster Hsieh Pei-yun. 

Television footage showed flooded streets and violent winds in southern Kenting, a tourist destination known for its white-sand beaches.

School and work were cancelled for most eastern and southern counties while trains running along the east coast have been halted – affecting travel for the Mid-Autumn Festival long weekend which starts Thursday, September 15. 

The storm is expected to dump as much as 800 millimeters (31.5 inches) of rain in mountainous areas, potentially triggering landslides. 

Close to 1,500 people have been evacuated from at-risk areas, with about half in temporary shelters, according to the Central Emergency Operation Center. 

Meranti was moving northwest into the Taiwan Strait at 18 kilometers an hour.

Another storm brewing east of the Philippines may also affect Taiwan later this week.

The weather bureau's Hsieh said tropical storm Malakas (Philippine codename Gener) was expected to be closest to the island on Friday and Saturday (September 16 and 17), but was unlikely to make landfall. –