A tropical storm approaching Japan’s main island of Honshu is already throwing a wrench into the Olympic schedule, with rowing events planned for early next week being moved up as a precaution.

Tropical Storm Nepartak formed Friday about 1,800 kilometers southeast of Honshu. The storm is forecast to approach Honshu over the next several days, with landfall possible on Tuesday or Wednesday. A forecast by the Meteorological Agency shows that the storm is unlikely to strengthen into a typhoon — a level on par with a hurricane — but it could still pack heavy rains and strong winds as it nears Japan.

U.S.-based typhoon expert Robert Speta agrees with the agency forecast, saying that any landfall would likely happen as a tropical storm or even a weaker tropical depression.

“The ingredients are not there for it to become a typhoon,” Speta said. “Thus the biggest question is if we have some decent rain bands set up with the storm that could introduce some heavy showers with gust at tropical storm strength.”

As for the forecast track, Speta said weather agencies pointed toward a possible landfall north of Tokyo in the Tohoku region but that there remained a chance it would move further south, closer to the capital.

Speta said the storm was unlikely to cause any significant damage but that it could easily impact outdoor Olympic events.

“At the very least, events like surfing and sailing would be influenced by waves which could be as high as 10 to 15 meters just off shore,” he said.

Reports on Saturday said that some rowing events, which are being held in the Sea Forest Waterway in Tokyo Bay, would be moved up to Sunday and that none would be held on Monday.

NHK said in a Saturday report that no other changes to the Olympic schedule had been announced so far, but that organizers would follow the storm forecast and adjust as necessary.

Olympic organizers said they were following the track of the storm.

“Unlike an earthquake, we’re able to predict the path of a typhoon so we’re able to prepare in advance,” Tokyo 2020 spokesman Masa Takaya told reporters.

“In the case of rowing, as a protective measure we have decided to change the event schedule,” he added.

“We’re looking closely at the path,” Takaya said, warning it could pose a danger if it makes landfall.

“We will take responsible measures,” he said.

While the rowing schedule was facing disruptions, some involved in the surfing competition welcomed the possibility of higher winds at Tsurigasaki Surfing Beach in Chiba Prefecture, where Olympic action is due to start on Sunday. The area is known for relatively calm waves.

As of Saturday afternoon, Nepartak was moving northeast at 15 kph, packing sustained winds of 65 kph with gusts of up to 90 kph, according to the Meteorological Agency. The agency said the storm was expected to strengthen slightly as it curves northwest toward Honshu.

Typhoons regularly hit Japan, including Tokyo, although they are more frequent in the latter part of the summer and into early fall. Speta said a landfall of even a tropical storm at this time of year would be “very uncommon.”

In October 2019, Typhoon Hagibis roared through eastern Japan, causing widespread damage and forcing the cancellation of some Rugby World Cup matches.

Information from AFP-Jiji added

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