Saola formed as a tropical depression over the western Pacific Ocean on July 28, 2012, and strengthened to a tropical storm the same day, Unisys Weather reported. By July 30, Saola was a typhoon, and the U.S. Navy’s Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC) reported that the storm had maximum sustained winds of 65 knots (120 kilometers per hour) with gusts up to 80 knots (150 kilometers per hour), bringing it to Category 1 on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.
On July 31 at 0300 UTC (July 30, 11:00 p.m. EDT) the JTWC forecast that, within 72 hours, Saola would pack sustained winds of 100 knots (185 kilometers per hour), bringing the storm to Category 3 Status. The projected storm track showed Saola moving toward the northwest, past the island of Taiwan and toward southeastern China. At 72 hours, the location of the eye is predicted to be 26.2 N 121.1 E, just off the shores of Zhejiang and Fujian Provinces.
The Global Disaster Alert Coordination System (GDACS) issued a Red Alert for Saola on July 30, stating that this tropical cyclone can have a high humanitarian impact, and noting that China may be affected with high winds up to 185 kilometers per hour (114 mph). At the current track, GDACS reports that up to 15.09 million people can be affected by wind speeds of hurricane strength or above. In addition, 1.19 million people are living in coastal areas below 5m and can therefore be affected by storm surge.
The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite captured this natural-color image of Typhoon Saola on July 30, 2012. The center of the storm was located southeast of Taiwan and east-northeast of the northern Philippine Islands.
By the time this image was captured, Saola had already caused damage in the Philippines. Multiple news sources reported the Typhoon drenching the islands with torrential rain, leaving at least 7 people dead and displacing at least 20,000 others.