Typhoon Paka

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Typhoon Paka (Rubing)
Typhoon (JMA scale)
Category 5 super typhoon (SSHWS)
Typhoon Paka.gif
Typhoon Paka near peak intensity on December 17
FormedNovember 28, 1997
DissipatedDecember 23, 1997
Highest winds 10-minute sustained:185 km/h (115 mph)
1-minute sustained:295 km/h (185 mph)
Lowest pressure920 hPa (mbar); 27.17 inHg
FatalitiesNone reported
Damage$580 million (1997 USD)
Areas affected Marshall Islands, Guam, Mariana Islands
Part of the 1997 Pacific hurricane
and the typhoon seasons

Typhoon Paka, known in the Philippines as Typhoon Rubing, was the last tropical cyclone of the 1997 Pacific hurricane and typhoon season, and was among the strongest Pacific typhoons in the month of December. [1] Paka, which is the Hawaiian name for Pat, [2] developed on November 28 from a trough well to the southwest of Hawaii. The storm tracked generally westward for much of its duration, and on December 7 it crossed into the western Pacific Ocean. Much of its track was characterized by fluctuations in intensity, and on December 10 the cyclone attained typhoon status as it crossed the Marshall Islands. On December 16, Paka struck Guam and Rota with winds of 230 km/h (145 mph), and it strengthened further to reach peak winds on December 18 over open waters as the final super typhoon of the year. Subsequently, it underwent a steady weakening trend, and on December 23 Paka dissipated.

Tropical cyclone rotating storm system with a closed, low-level circulation

A tropical cyclone is a rapidly rotating storm system characterized by a low-pressure center, a closed low-level atmospheric circulation, strong winds, and a spiral arrangement of thunderstorms that produce heavy rain or squalls. Depending on its location and strength, a tropical cyclone is referred to by different names, including hurricane, typhoon, tropical storm, cyclonic storm, tropical depression, and simply cyclone. A hurricane is a tropical cyclone that occurs in the Atlantic Ocean and northeastern Pacific Ocean, and a typhoon occurs in the northwestern Pacific Ocean; in the south Pacific or Indian Ocean, comparable storms are referred to simply as "tropical cyclones" or "severe cyclonic storms".

Pacific Ocean Ocean between Asia and Australia in the west, the Americas in the east and Antarctica or the Southern Ocean in the south.

The Pacific Ocean is the largest and deepest of Earth's oceanic divisions. It extends from the Arctic Ocean in the north to the Southern Ocean in the south and is bounded by the continents of Asia and Australia in the west and the Americas in the east.

1997 Pacific hurricane season Period of formation of tropical cyclones in the Eastern Pacific Ocean in 1997

The 1997 Pacific hurricane season was a very active hurricane season. With hundreds of deaths and hundreds of millions of dollars in damage, this season was one of the costliest and deadliest Pacific hurricane seasons. This was due to the exceptionally strong 1997–98 El Niño event. The 1997 Pacific hurricane season officially started on May 15, 1997, in the eastern Pacific, and on June 1, 1997, in the central Pacific, and lasted until November 30, 1997. These dates conventionally delimit the period of each year when almost all tropical cyclones form in the northeastern Pacific Ocean.


Typhoon Paka first impacted the Marshall Islands, where it dropped heavy rainfall and left

United States dollar Currency of the United States of America

The United States dollar is the official currency of the United States and its territories per the Coinage Act of 1792. The act created a decimal currency by creating the following coins: tenth dollar, one-twentieth dollar, one-hundredth dollar. In addition the act created the dollar, half dollar, and quarter dollar coins. All of these coins are still minted in 2019.

Northern Mariana Islands American-dependent insular area in the western Pacific

The Northern Mariana Islands, officially the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, is an insular area and commonwealth of the United States consisting of 14 islands in the northwestern Pacific Ocean. The CNMI includes the 14 northernmost islands in the Mariana Archipelago except the southernmost island of the chain, Guam, which is a separate U.S. territory. The CNMI and Guam are the westernmost territories of the United States.

Meteorological history

Map plotting the track and the intensity of the storm, according to the Saffir-Simpson scale Paka 1997 track.png
Map plotting the track and the intensity of the storm, according to the Saffir–Simpson scale

As the weather synoptics of the northern Pacific Ocean transitioned into a late-fall to early winter-type pattern, convection from the monsoon trough extended to the east of the International Date Line. During late November, a westerly disturbance developed into twin troughs on opposite sides of the equator; the one in the Southern Hemisphere ultimately developed into Tropical Cyclone Pam, while the one in the Northern Hemisphere formed into an area of convection about 2000 km (1240 mi) southwest of Hawaii. The disturbance gradually organized as it drifted north-northeastward, and on November 28 it developed into Tropical Depression Five-C about 465 km (290 mi) west-northwest of Palmyra Atoll. Operationally, the Central Pacific Hurricane Center (CPHC) did not begin issuing warnings on the system until December 2. [2] [3] [4] [5]

Convection movement of groups of molecules within fluids such as liquids or gases, and within rheids; takes place through advection, diffusion or both

Convection is the heat transfer due to the bulk movement of molecules within fluids such as gases and liquids, including molten rock (rheid). Convection includes sub-mechanisms of advection, and diffusion.

Monsoon trough

The monsoon trough is a portion of the Intertropical Convergence Zone in the Western Pacific, as depicted by a line on a weather map showing the locations of minimum sea level pressure, and as such, is a convergence zone between the wind patterns of the southern and northern hemispheres.

International Date Line imaginary line that demarcates the change of one calendar day to the next

The International Date Line (IDL) is an imaginary line of demarcation on the surface of Earth that runs from the North Pole to the South Pole and demarcates the change of one calendar day to the next. It passes through the middle of the Pacific Ocean, roughly following the 180° line of longitude but deviating to pass around some territories and island groups.

The tropical depression continued drifting north-northeastward, and failed to strengthen significantly. It turned to the west on December 1, due to the presence of a strong anticyclone to its north with a ridge extending westward past the International Date Line. On December 2, based on satellite estimates, the CPHC upgraded the depression to Tropical Storm Paka while located about 1000 km (625 mi) south-southeast of Johnston Atoll. Due to the presence of high clouds across the area, forecasters had difficulty at times in locating the low-level circulation. After becoming a tropical storm, Paka remained nearly stationary for about two days before resuming a slow motion to the west-southwest. It steadily intensified due to warm water temperatures, and on December 3 the storm attained winds of 105 km/h (65 mph). The next day, however, it encountered dry air and began weakening; by December 6, the winds had decreased to minimal tropical storm status for about 12 hours. Subsequently, Paka began to re-intensify, and on December 7 the storm crossed the International Date Line into the western North Pacific Ocean with winds of 80 km/h (50 mph). [2] [5]

Anticyclone Weather phenomenon which is the opposite of a cyclone

An anticyclone is a weather phenomenon defined by the United States National Weather Service's glossary as "a large-scale circulation of winds around a central region of high atmospheric pressure, clockwise in the Northern Hemisphere, counterclockwise in the Southern Hemisphere". Effects of surface-based anticyclones include clearing skies as well as cooler, drier air. Fog can also form overnight within a region of higher pressure. Mid-tropospheric systems, such as the subtropical ridge, deflect tropical cyclones around their periphery and cause a temperature inversion inhibiting free convection near their center, building up surface-based haze under their base. Anticyclones aloft can form within warm core lows such as tropical cyclones, due to descending cool air from the backside of upper troughs such as polar highs, or from large scale sinking such as the subtropical ridge. The evolution of an anticyclone depends upon variables such as its size, intensity, and extent of moist convection, as well as the Coriolis force.

Ridge (meteorology) elongated region of high atmospheric pressure

A ridge or barometric ridge is a term in meteorology describing an elongated area of relatively high atmospheric pressure compared to the surrounding environment, without being a closed circulation. It is associated with an area of maximum anticyclonic curvature of wind flow. The ridge originates in the center of an anticyclone and stretch between two low-pressure areas, and the locus of the maximum curvature is called the ridge line. This phenomenon is the opposite of a trough.

Johnston Atoll United States Minor Outlying Islands

Johnston Atoll, also known as Kalama Atoll to Native Hawaiians, is an unincorporated territory of the United States currently administered by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. Johnston Atoll is a National Wildlife Refuge and is closed to public entry. Limited access for management needs is only by Letter of Authorization from the U.S. Air Force and Special Use Permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Upon entering the western North Pacific Ocean, tropical cyclone warning duties transferred from the CPHC to the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA), and the JMA first assessed Paka as a 65 km (40 mph) storm. [6] The Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC) unofficially assumed warning duties for interests in the United States Department of Defense. Paka continued to intensify after crossing the date line, and from late on December 7 through early the following day it remained a strong tropical storm. However, upper-level wind shear increased, and it again weakened. At 1200 UTC on December 9, the JTWC assessed Paka as an 85 km/h (50 mph) tropical storm and forecast it to continue weakening. By December 10, the shear had begun to decrease as the storm moved through the Marshall Islands, and that night the JTWC upgraded Paka to typhoon status. [4] Paka officially attained typhoon status when JMA classified it with winds of 120 km/h (75 mph) at 0000 UTC on December 11. [6]

Japan Meteorological Agency meteorological service of Japan

The Japan Meteorological Agency, JMA, is an agency of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism. It is charged with gathering and providing results for the public in Japan that are obtained from data based on daily scientific observation and research into natural phenomena in the fields of meteorology, hydrology, seismology and volcanology, among other related scientific fields. Its headquarters is located in Chiyoda, Tokyo.

Joint Typhoon Warning Center

The Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC) is a joint United States Navy – United States Air Force command located in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The JTWC is responsible for the issuing of tropical cyclone warnings in the North-West Pacific Ocean, South Pacific Ocean, and Indian Ocean for all branches of the U.S. Department of Defense and other U.S. government agencies. Their warnings are intended for the protection of primarily military ships and aircraft as well as military installations jointly operated with other countries around the world.

United States Department of Defense United States federal executive department

The United States Department of Defense is an executive branch department of the federal government charged with coordinating and supervising all agencies and functions of the government directly related to national security and the United States Armed Forces. The DoD is the largest employer in the world, with nearly 1.3 million active-duty service members as of 2016. More employees include over 826,000 National Guard and Reservists from the armed forces, and over 732,000 civilians bringing the total to over 2.8 million employees. Headquartered at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, just outside Washington, D.C., the DoD's stated mission is to provide "the military forces needed to deter war and ensure our nation's security".

Super Typhoon Paka on December 15 Paka 15 dec 1997 0429Z.jpg
Super Typhoon Paka on December 15

After attaining typhoon status, Paka strengthened fairly quickly, and by December 12 it reached sustained winds of 150 km/h (90 mph) for a ten-minute (10 min) duration, [6] or 215 km/h (135 mph) over a one-minute (1 min) duration. Subsequently, it briefly weakened as its forward motion increased. However, Paka again re-intensified, and at 1200 UTC on December 14 it attained the unofficial ranking of Category 5 super typhoon status while over the open Pacific Ocean with estimated 1-minute sustained winds of 260 km/h (160 mph). [4] At the same time, the JMA classified it with 10 min sustained winds of 175 km/h (110 mph). [6] After reaching its initial peak intensity, Paka underwent an eyewall replacement cycle and began weakening as it approached the southern Mariana Islands; the NEXRAD Doppler weather radar from Guam revealed the presence of a primary eyewall of 74 km (46 mi) in diameter, with a fragmented inner wall cloud of 19 km (11 mi) in diameter. [4] Additionally, satellite imagery indicated an eyewall mesovortex within the eye of the typhoon. [7] It slowed and began to re-intensify as it continued westward, and at 0530 UTC on December 16 the northern portion of the outer eyewall of Paka passed over the island of Rota; 20 minutes later, the southern portion of the inner wall cloud moved across northern Guam. [4] As it tracked through the Rota Channel, the center of Paka passed about 8 km (5 mi) north of the northern tip of Guam, its closest approach to the island. [8]

Eyewall replacement cycle

Eyewall replacement cycles, also called concentric eyewall cycles, naturally occur in intense tropical cyclones, generally with winds greater than 185 km/h (115 mph), or major hurricanes. When tropical cyclones reach this intensity, and the eyewall contracts or is already sufficiently small, some of the outer rainbands may strengthen and organize into a ring of thunderstorms—an outer eyewall—that slowly moves inward and robs the inner eyewall of its needed moisture and angular momentum. Since the strongest winds are in a cyclone's eyewall, the tropical cyclone usually weakens during this phase, as the inner wall is "choked" by the outer wall. Eventually the outer eyewall replaces the inner one completely, and the storm may re-intensify.

Mariana Islands Archipelago in western North Pacific Ocean

The Mariana Islands are a crescent-shaped archipelago comprising the summits of fifteen mostly dormant volcanic mountains in the western North Pacific Ocean, between the 12th and 21st parallels north and along the 145th meridian east. They lie south-southeast of Japan, west-southwest of Hawaii, north of New Guinea and east of the Philippines, demarcating the Philippine Sea's eastern limit. They are found in the northern part of the western Oceanic sub-region of Micronesia, and are politically divided into two jurisdictions of the United States: the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and, at the southern end of the chain, the territory of Guam. The islands were named after the influential Spanish queen Mariana of Austria following their colonization in the 17th century.

NEXRAD Fourth-generation weather radars used by the National Weather Service

NEXRAD or Nexrad is a network of 159 high-resolution S-band Doppler weather radars operated by the National Weather Service (NWS), an agency of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) within the United States Department of Commerce, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) within the Department of Transportation, and the U.S. Air Force within the Department of Defense. Its technical name is WSR-88D.

Typhoon Paka continued to steadily intensify after passing the Marianas Islands, and late on December 17 it reached its peak intensity of 185 km/h (115 mph 10 min sustained) while located 440 km (275 mi) west-northwest of Guam. [6] Early on December 18, the JTWC assessed it as attaining peak winds of 295 km/h (185 mph 1 min winds). [4] On December 19, it entered the area of responsibility of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration, or PAGASA, and was named Rubing. [9] Shortly thereafter, Paka moved through an area of progressively increasing wind shear, which resulted in a steady weakening trend. [7] By December 21, winds decreased to tropical storm status. The next day, it degenerated into a tropical depression before it dissipated on December 23. [6]

Preparations and impact

Marshall Islands

Prior to the typhoon passing through the Marshall Islands, several hundred residents on the island of Ebeye fled to safer structures. The threat of Paka prevented Continental Micronesia from flying in or out of the area. [10]

Paka entered the Marshall Islands between Mili and Majuro as a tropical storm on December 10, and after strengthening into a typhoon, it left the archipelago on December 14. [8] The cyclone affected several islands in the nation, and the Majuro and Kwajalein atolls reported wind gusts in excess of 75 km/h (45 mph). [4] On Jaluit Atoll, the typhoon dropped 217 mm (8.54 in) of precipitation in six hours, with a total of about 300 mm (11.8 in) recorded in 30 hours. [11] Strong waves inundated low-lying islands, which flooded crops with salt water. [10] The combination of the wind and flooding caused severe damage to banana, papaya, and lime trees across the territory. [8] Typhoon Paka damaged 70% of the houses on Ailinglaplap Atoll, and most of the coconut trees on the atoll were left toppled or damaged. Strong winds left large portions of Ebeye island without electricity or telephone. [10] The typhoon caused no reported deaths or injuries in the region, and damage was estimated at


Damage on Guam Typhoon Paka - Guam Damage.gif
Damage on Guam

The Guam National Weather Service issued a typhoon watch on December 14, which was upgraded to a typhoon warning the next day. The Antonio B. Won Pat International Airport was closed during the passage of Paka, with only emergency flights permitted. [8]

Passing a short distance north of the island, Typhoon Paka produced strong winds across northern Guam, though reliable wind reports are incomplete due to the long duration and intensity of the winds. The highest reading believed to be reliable was at Apra Harbor. There, a station recorded a wind gust of 277 km/h (171 mph) before the sensor failed as winds shifted to the southwest; since the winds from the southwest were stronger and of greater duration, officials believe gusts there reached 297 km/h (184 mph). [4] Additionally, Andersen Air Force Base recorded a peak wind gust of 381 km/h (236 mph), [12] which at the time was considered the highest wind speed on record, surpassing the 1934 world record of 372 km/h (231 mph) on Mount Washington in New Hampshire. [13] However, a subsequent wind survey of the area discarded the reading at the base, as it was considered unreliable. [12] As microbarographs are less exposed than wind sensors, pressure readings on the island are considered accurate; the lowest reading on the island was 948 hPa (27.99 inHg) at Andersen Air Force Base. [4] In two days, the typhoon dropped about 533 mm (21 in) of precipitation on the northern portion of the island, or about 89% of the monthly rainfall total. [14] Waves along northern Guam reached about 11 m (35 ft) in height. [15]

The strong winds from Paka left around 1,500 buildings destroyed on the island, [15] of which 1,160 were single-family homes. [8] A further 10,000 buildings sustained damage to some degree, [15] with 60% of the homes on the island reporting major damage. [8] In all, about 5,000 people were left homeless due to the typhoon. Additionally, an estimated 30–40% of the public buildings received major damage. [8] Buildings on the island made of reinforced concrete fared well, as opposed to light metal-frame structures, which more often than not were destroyed. Large tourist hotels near Hagåtña, on which Guam is dependent, received generally minor damage, such as broken windows and damaged power generators. [15]

A damaged business at Agana FEMA - 1089 - Photograph by David Fowler taken on 12-17-1997 in Guam.jpg
A damaged business at Agaña

A complete island-wide power outage followed the typhoon; damage to the main electrical transmission and distribution system was estimated at

NEXRAD image of Typhoon Paka from Guam Paka NEXRAD.jpg
NEXRAD image of Typhoon Paka from Guam

Northern Mariana Islands

A typhoon watch was issued for Rota, Tinian, and Saipan on December 14, which was upgraded to a typhoon warning the next day. [8] Because Paka was intensifying while passing to the south of Rota, the first wind, or northeast through east winds, was less severe than the second wind from the southeast. [4] Sustained winds on the island reached 145 km/h (90 mph), with gusts reaching 185 km/h (115 mph). [8] Many trees in the mountainous portion of the island were left defoliated, which limited nesting and foraging sites for the endangered bridled white-eye bird. [17] While passing to the south of the island, Paka dropped 250–300 mm (10–12 in) of rain. [14] Damage on the island totaled $4.4 million (1997 USD, $6.4 million 2015 USD). [8] The typhoon also produced above-normal precipitation on Saipan. [14]


Following the passage of the typhoon in the Ailinglaplap Atoll in the Marshall Islands, residents experienced severe food shortages due to damaged crops and little rainfall. Experts estimated the entire redevelopment of its fauna would require more than a decade. As a result of the crop shortage, large-scale evacuations of the islands' residents were considered. Officials in the nation requested assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency of the United States, [18] and on March 20, 1998, the area was declared a disaster area; the declaration allowed for the usage of emergency funds. [19]

On December 17, 1997, President Bill Clinton declared Guam a federal disaster area, making it eligible for federal assistance. [20] One week later, a disaster declaration was ordered for the Northern Mariana Islands. [21] Ultimately, FEMA received 14,770 Individual Assistance Applications from residents on Guam. In turn, FEMA provided the residents with over $27 million in assistance (1997 USD, $39 million 2015 USD). [22] The entire island of Guam was left without power after Paka. Water and sewage systems on Guam were directly affected minimally by the typhoon. With the usage of power generators, most areas of the island had water pumping capabilities within a few days after the typhoon. The Antonio B. Won Pat International Airport was partially reopened to daytime flights a day after the typhoon, and by a week after the passage of Paka the airport was fully re-opened. [15]


Due to the severe damage from the typhoon, the Central Pacific Hurricane Center requested the retirement of the name in April 2006; the name Paka was replaced with Pama. [23]

See also

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Typhoon Hester was a severe typhoon that formed in the 1952 Pacific typhoon season and continued into January 1953. As the twenty-ninth storm and twentieth typhoon of the season, it was first tracked by Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC) near the Marshall Islands as a tropical storm on December 27. Hester quickly became a typhoon and rapidly intensified. Near the end of the year, Hester became a Category 5 typhoon on the modern-day Saffir–Simpson hurricane wind scale south of Guam. The typhoon soon weakened quickly as it curved eastward and sped up. It weakened into a tropical storm on January 4, and JTWC ceased tracking it hours later.

Typhoon Dolphin (2015) 2015 typhoon

Typhoon Dolphin was a powerful tropical cyclone that produced the first typhoon-force winds on Guam since Typhoon Pongsona in 2002. The seventh named storm of the 2015 Pacific typhoon season, Dolphin formed on May 6 in the vicinity of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM). Moving eastward at first, the storm slowly organized before beginning a north and west-northwest trajectory. Dolphin intensified into a typhoon before passing between Guam and Rota on May 15, producing typhoon-force winds on both islands. It later rapidly intensified as it curved to the north. The American-based Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC) designated Dolphin as a super typhoon, while the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) estimated 10 minute sustained winds of 185 km/h (115 mph). Dolphin turned to the northeast and weakened, becoming extratropical on May 20 and exiting the western Pacific basin on May 24.

Tropical Storm Bavi (2015) Pacific typhoon in 2015

Tropical Storm Bavi, known in the Philippines as Tropical Storm Betty, influenced the trade winds over the Pacific Ocean and was partially responsible for one of the strongest trade wind reversals ever observed. The system was first noted as a tropical disturbance during March 8, while it was located to the southeast of Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands. Over the next couple of days the system moved north-westwards through the Marshall Islands, before it was classified as a tropical depression during March 10. The system subsequently moved north-westwards and continued to develop further, before it was classified as the third tropical storm of the 2015 Pacific typhoon season and named Bavi by the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) during March 11. After continuing its north-westwards movement, the system peaked as a tropical storm during March 14, before it started to weaken as it approached the Mariana Islands. The system subsequently passed over Guam during the next day, before continuing its west-northwestwards movement as it gradually weakened over the next few days. The system entered the Philippine area of responsibility, where it was named Betty by PAGASA during March 17 as the system weakened into a tropical depression. The system was subsequently last noted during March 21, as it dissipated over the Philippines.

Typhoon Alice (1979)

Typhoon Alice was an unusual West Pacific tropical cyclone that caused extensive damage in the Marshall Islands in January 1979. Alice formed on December 31, 1978 from a tropical disturbance at both an atypically low latitude near the equator and during a time of year climatologically unfavorable for tropical cyclogenesis. The system strengthened as it tracked northwest, reaching tropical storm strength on January 1, 1979. Alice then began to move erratically through the Marshall Islands, causing heavy rainfall and gusty winds that destroyed crops throughout the archipelago. Significant damage occurred in Majuro and Enewetak Atoll, where gusts of 80 mph (130 km/h) were reported and one person was injured. Nuclear cleanup operations on Enewetak in the wake of postwar nuclear tests there were disrupted, with repair of cleanup facilities lasting several months. The damage toll was estimated at between US$50,000–$500,000.

Typhoon Wutip (2019) Pacific typhoon in 2019

Typhoon Wutip, known in the Philippines as Tropical Depression Betty, was the most powerful February typhoon on record, surpassing Typhoon Higos of 2015. The third tropical cyclone, second tropical storm, and the first typhoon of the 2019 Pacific typhoon season, Wutip originated from a low-pressure area on February 16, 2019. The disturbance moved westward, passing just south of the Federated States of Micronesia, before later organizing into Tropical Depression 02W on February 18, 2019. On February 20, 2019, the tropical depression intensified into a tropical storm and was named Wutip, before strengthening further into a typhoon on the next day. Wutip underwent rapid intensification, and on February 23, Wutip reached its initial peak intensity, with 10-minute sustained winds of 185 km/h (115 mph), 1-minute sustained winds of 250 km/h (155 mph), and a minimal pressure of 925 millibars (27.3 inHg) while passing to the southwest of Guam, becoming the strongest February typhoon on record as it did so.


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