Matthew Cappucci

The Washington Post

Super Typhoon Halong is raging in the open waters of the western tropical Pacific Ocean, with satellite imagery estimating its peak winds at close to 190 mph.

It’s every bit a Category 5 storm and then some, its extreme strength coming just three days after it drifted lazily as a tropical depression.

Halong isn’t moving toward land, but its mesmerizing fury and terrifying beauty is capturing the attention of meteorologists worldwide.

Halong’s path to a monstrosity stemmed from seemingly innocuous origins Saturday, as an area of low pressure blossomed into a tropical depression several hundred miles east of the Northern Mariana Islands.

Hours later, it bloomed into Tropical Storm Halong.

It gradually, ramped up into a Category 2 hurricane by Monday.

The storm rapidly intensified overnight into a Category 5-equivalent buzzsaw.

As of noon Tuesday, the Joint Typhoon Warning Center estimated Halong’s intensity at 160 mph.

But there are plenty of reasons to believe that may be conservative, and that Halong is still intensifying.

“The latest automated values … have it up to ~165 knots!” wrote Philip Klotzbach, a hurricane researcher at Colorado State University.

That equals 190 mph; Hurricane Dorian, which ravaged the Bahamas in September, had maximum winds of 185 mph.

This could put Halong into the top dozen or so tropical cyclones ever observed by weather satellite.

The so-called “satellite era” dates back to 1979.