Super Typhoon Mawar hits Guam with 140 mph winds; residents emerge to see ‘major mess’

408
0

Guam residents left their homes and shelters Thursday to assess the damages from Super Typhoon Mawar, which cut power to most of the island and thrashed around debris overnight with 140 mph winds.

More than 2 feet of rain fell on the central and northern parts of the island when Mawar’s eyewall passed, according to Brandon Aydlett, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

“We are waking up to a rather disturbing scene out there across Guam. We’re looking out our door and what used to be a jungle looks like toothpicks — it looks like a scene from the movie ‘Twister,’ with trees just thrashed apart,” Landon Aydlett, his twin brother and fellow weather service meteorologist, told The Associated Press.

Guam is a U.S. territory in the Pacific Ocean home to about 170,000 Americans, about 6,000 miles west of Los Angeles.

The slow-moving storm – the strongest to hit Guam in decades – appeared to have crossed the Rota Channel area close to Andersen Air Force Base on Wednesday night, the weather service said in a Facebook Live broadcast. It apparently damaged or disconnected wind-speed indicators after they measured winds of about 104 mph.

The worst of the storm hit the island Wednesday afternoon, severing power to most residents and businesses, and continued with strong winds into the night. Authorities warned residents to remain indoors as tornado-strength winds continued and flash-flooding was predicted. Satellite radar showed the storm’s winds at up to 140 mph, the weather service said.

“This is an extremely dangerous and life-threatening situation,” the weather service said in a broadcast.

‘We are at the crosshairs’:Guam braces for direct hit from Super Typhoon Mawar

Forecasters had worried the storm would hit shore directly over the island, but it appeared to have made a gradual shift northward as it approached. The island is about 30 miles long and 12 miles at its widest point.

The storm was crawling along at 6 mph early Thursday, a slow-moving typhoon compared with others that have moved at up to 15 mph, the weather service said. It was centered 45 miles northwest of Guam and 65 miles west-southwest of Rota, an island of the Northern Mariana Islands just north of Guam.

The weather service said the storm was expected to intensify through Friday.

Mawar was the 15th typhoon of at least Category 4 intensity to pass within 70 miles of Guam in records since World War II, according to Weather.com meteorologist Jonathan Erdman.

Residents emerge to see a ‘major mess’

The storm’s heavy winds shook the island. Most of Guam received about a foot of rain during the storm, Brandon Aydlett said.

According to videos posted on social media, the typhoon sent debris flying, flipped over cars, struck down trees and, crumbled part of a hotel’s exterior wall to the ground.

Water swamped some homes and the island’s international airport flooded as Mawar brought a storm surge. But some residents reported that buildings made of concrete were able to avoid the harsh conditions.

“Most of Guam is dealing with a major mess that’s gonna take weeks to clean up,” Landon Aydlett said.

Guam Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero and Lt. Gov. Josh Tenorio were assessing the situation after the island “received the full brunt of the typhoon overnight,” emergency management officials said in a statement.

Officials said they planned a driving tour to look for any major damage or blocked roadways.

Strong winds shake residents

The storm briefly landfall at around 9 p.m. local time Wednesday as a Category 4 storm at Andersen Air Force Base on the northern tip of Guam, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Patrick Doll.

“It was on land for about 30 to 35 minutes before it moved back off shore,” Doll told the Associated Press from the weather service’s office in Tiyan, Guam. “They lost their observation so we couldn’t see their wind speed.”

Mawar continued to slowly move over the island early Thursday but strong winds and rain tore down trees, walls and power lines. A dangerous storm surge overnight forced first responders to wait for daylight to access damages.

J. Asprer, a police officer in the Dededo precinct in northern Guam, told the Associated Press early Thursday that he hadn’t received any reports of injuries, but several police cars and personal vehicles were damaged by debris.

“Tin roofs flying around all over the place,” he said.

Power and internet failures also prevented residents and officials from communicating. Ray Leon Guerrero, an assistant in the mayor’s office in Barrigada, a village of about 9,000 people in central Guam, said he stayed at the office overnight to take calls from nervous residents.

Typhoon Mawar takes out power

The Guam Power Authority reported that most of the island lost power shortly after 1 p.m. local time on Wednesday and that only 1,000 of its 52,000 customers still had power.

Before the storm arrived, President Joe Biden approved an emergency declaration. Guam Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero said on social media that the declaration will support mobilization of resources into Guam, which is “especially crucial given our distance from the continental U.S.”

The U.S. military sent ships away as the storm approached. Guam is a crucial hub for U.S. forces in the Pacific, and the Department of Defense controls about a third of the island. All ships were moved out to sea as a standard precaution, according to the Navy, and any personnel remaining on the island were sheltering in place. About 6,800 U.S. service members are assigned to Guam, according to the Pentagon.

The U.S. Navy also ordered the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier strike group to assist with recovery efforts, according to a U.S. official.

Authorities had urged residents to seek shelter in sturdy buildings or designated emergency shelters and to bring a week’s worth of food and water, an indication of how long they believe it could take to restore services to some areas.

Explaining hurricane categories:What is the Saffir-Simpson hurricane wind speed scale? Breaking down the hurricane category scale

What’s the difference between a hurricane and a typhoon?

A typhoon is the same type of storm as a hurricane. They are both tropical cyclones. The only difference between a hurricane and a typhoon is where the storm occurs, according to the National Ocean Service.

Typhoons form in the western Pacific Ocean, while hurricanes form in the eastern Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean.

What is a ‘super’ typhoon?

A typhoon becomes a “super” typhoon when its maximum sustained winds reach 150 mph. That’s equivalent to a strong Category 4 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale of hurricane intensity.

Where is Guam?

Guam is a U.S. island territory in the Micronesia region of the western Pacific Ocean, nearly 3,800 miles west of Honolulu. Its residents are U.S. citizens, but they cannot vote for president and do not have a voting member in Congress.

The United States acquired Guam at the end of the Spanish-American War in 1898 and has largely used it as a military base to control the Pacific Ocean. It was occupied by the Japanese military for three years during World War II and retaken by the U.S. in the summer of 1944, which allowed bombers to attack the Japanese mainland.

Contributing: The Associated Press

[Read More…]