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Typhoon Olive (internation designation: 5213) was the strongest Pacific typhoon of the 1952 Pacific typhoon season. The thirteenth tropical storm and the ninth typhoon of the season, it developed about 1,600 miles (1,580 km) southwest of Honolulu, Hawaiimarker, on September 13. On the next day, the system attained tropical storm intensity, and it attained typhoon intensity on September 15. Subsequently, the typhoon, rapidly intensifying, passed near Wake Islandmarker. Olive, remaining away from land masses, eventually attained the equivalence of Category 5 intensity on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale.

Olive produced significant damage on Wake Island, where wind gusts reached 142 mph (229 km/h). Significant flooding was reported, and the majority of the structures were completely destroyed. However, few injuries were reported, and the island's facilities were restored in 1953. Typhoon Olive remains one of the most intense tropical cyclones to affect the island.

Meteorological history

On September 8, a tropical disturbance, located near 12.0°N 169.0°W, was plotted as a tropical wave on surface weather maps. Operationally, the system was not classified as a tropical storm until September 15; however, posthumous analysis determined that the system acquired tropical storm intensity on September 14 (0000 UTC on September 15). Tropical Storm Olive, moving west-northwest near 10 mph (17 km/h), turned toward Wake Islandmarker on September 15. Around 1800 UTC, the tropical storm, attaining typhoon intensity, acquired winds of 75 mph (120 km/h). On the same date, Olive, intensifying further, passed near Wake Island with maximum sustained winds of 127 mph (204 km/h). Reconnaissance aircraft recorded a minimum central pressure of 945 mbar (hPa; 27.90 inHg) at the time. On September 16, Olive attained the equivalence of modern super typhoon intensity, and it strengthened to a peak intensity of 185 mph (295 km/h) on the next day. Although the cyclone became the strongest typhoon of the season, the peak intensity occurred away from land masses. On September 18, Olive weakened and recurved northeast. On September 19, the cyclone lost typhoon intensity, and the remnant low acquired extratropical characteristics on September 21.

Preparations and impact

On Wake Islandmarker, 700 people sheltered in World War II bunkers. Olive, the second typhoon to affect the island since 1935, produced sustained wind speeds of 120 mph (195 km/h) and peak gusts of 142 mph (229 km/h) on the island. Significant flooding was also recorded. The effects of Olive were severe—estimates suggested that fully 85 percent of the island's structures were demolished. All of the homes and the island's hotel were destroyed. Additionally, the island's chapel and quonset huts were completely destroyed. The island's LORAN station, operated by the United States Coast Guard, was also destroyed. On September 18, water and power services were restored. The facilities on the island were restored in 1953. The total cost to repair damages caused by Olive amounted to $1.6 million (1952 USD; $13 million 2009 USD). No fatalities occurred on the island, and four injuries were reported. None of the 230 Pan American World Airways employees received injuries.

Fifteen years later, Wake Island was adversely affected by Typhoon Sarah. Hurricane Ioke also struck the island in 2006. After the passage of Olive, a survey, conducted ten years after the event, revealed that the vegetation of Wake Island recovered rapidly; visible damage was scarce. It was believed that the natural adaptations of Pacific atoll plants, which were exposed to typhoons over millenia, enabled rapid recovery after storms.


  1. The Clipper publication. Atoll Island Ravaged by Wind and Rain but No One is Seriously Injured; Eyewitnesses Tell Story (September 25, 1952). Pan American World Airways Pacific-Alaska Division.
  2. The Clipper publication. Plans to Rebuild Wake are Already Under Way (September 25, 1952). Pan American World Airways Pacific-Alaska Division.


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