The Earth's strongest storm this year is striking US territories in the western Pacific Ocean.
A strengthening Super Typhoon Yutu, with sustained winds of 289 km/h, is on a trek through the Northern Mariana Islands.
The storm is roaring across the islands of Saipan and Tinian, both US territories, and will become among the most intense storms - if not the most - on record to impact US soil.
The Joint Typhoon Warning Centre now considers Yutu an incredibly strong Category five equivalent typhoon. Because reconnaissance planes do not fly in the western Pacific to directly measure conditions inside storms, the intensity is based on estimates from satellites.
Meteorologist Ryan Maue of WeatherModels.com tweeted that the storm would be a "Category six if Atlantic scale was extrapolated."
According to Phil Klotzbach of the Washington Post, Yutu is "tied with Mangkhut for the strongest storm of the 2018 season to date." If it strengthens further, Yutu will rank among the all-time most intense storms ever recorded.
"This is an historically significant event," tweeted Michael Lowry, a hurricane specialist with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
While the western Pacific is where the world's most powerful tropical cyclones tend to form, Yutu's strength is likely to be unprecedented in modern history for the Northern Mariana Islands. The islands are home to slightly more than 50,000 people, a majority of whom live in the largest, northernmost island of Saipan.
Yutu is passing through the island chain. In Saipan, wind gusts to hurricane force have been recorded, and much worse will move through as the eye of the storm passes. Gusts could top 320 km/h.
A terrifying, grating wind can be heard in audio of a live EarthCam broadcasting from the island. As the storm approached Saipan, the pressure was plummeting at an astonishing rate.
The islands of Tinian and Saipan are taking the eyewall of the right-front quadrant of Yutu, which is typically where a storm's most severe conditions are found. Extreme destruction and suffering in both the short and long term should be anticipated in these areas.
The National Weather Service's advisory for the islands conveyed a dire message, warning of "devastating damage" from the "collapse of residential structures," partial or total destruction of industrial and apartment buildings, and loss of water and electricity for days to weeks.
In addition to winds that will flatten structures and forests, a storm surge as high as 20 feet is possible in the hardest-hit coastal locations. Storm surge acts as a storm-driven tsunami, and the 6m of surge doesn't count battering waves. Rainfall approaching or surpassing 30cm is likely to also lead to freshwater flooding and landslides.
It's a classic and absolutely textbook storm on satellite, resembling a buzz saw. You don't see them much more intense
After passing the Mariana Islands, Yutu is likely to maintain an intensity close to its peak for the next day or two before slowly weakening as it moves into the Philippine Sea. Models are mixed on whether Yutu will strike more land at that point. The Philippines to Japan should certainly keep an eye out.