Typhoon Mawar clips Guam, bringing strong winds and power outages : NPR
Junior Grad Drew Lovullo/AP
Typhoon Mawar slammed into Guam as a Category 4 storm on Wednesday local time, bringing strong winds, heavy rain and widespread power outages in what forecasters are calling. the strongest tropical cyclone to hit the US island territory in decades.
The storm cut off northern Guam and it is get away from the island as of Wednesday evening, according to the National Weather Service (NWS). Its maximum sustained winds remain at 140 mph and are expected to increase as it slowly makes its way to the northwest.
“Mawar is forecast to slowly intensify over the next few days, possibly becoming a Super Typhoon over the Philippine Sea well west of the Marianas,” NWS says.
Forecasters had warned of a “triple threat” with strong winds, torrential rain and a “life-threatening storm,” saying this could be the strongest storm to hit the island in 60 years.
Governor Lou Leon Guerrero remembers that experience Typhoon Karen — the strongest tropical cyclone to hit Guam, with winds up to 175 miles per hour — in 1962.
“The whole island was really flattened by that typhoon, so for me that’s the scariest,” she said Morning Edition On Wednesday. “This, as governor… what is making me much more anxious is the safety and protection of our people with these storms, because we know that we cannot leave because we are in the storm for about 12 hours. ”
It’s too dark and dangerous to start damage assessments
Guam remains under flooding and extreme winds warningsand it may be some time until the full extent of the damage is known.
Guerrero said she will have a first damage assessment as soon as the winds begin to subside, but she already knows of damage to homes and at least one rescue mission in which eight people were taken to a shelter.
“It was pretty scary going into Category 4 for almost a Super Typhoon, but our people are very resilient,” added Guerrero.
What is clear is that most of the island is in the dark. Guam Power Authority said in an afternoon update that nearly all of its circuits were without power, and that the island-wide power system was only serving about 1,000 of its approximately 52,000 customers.
“I don’t know that anyone still has power,” says Dana Williams, who is in Guam covering the storm for the Pacific Daily News.
Williams said Morning Edition on Wednesday that the island — which covers an area of some 210 square miles — was seeing heavy rain, coastal flooding, high seas, downed trees and internet outages.
The forecasters were warning that anyone who did not take shelter in a reinforced concrete structure risks serious injury or death, she added. (Building codes have required all houses to be made of concrete since 2002, the Associated Press notes.) Fortunately, Williams said, people living in Guam take these precautions seriously.
“This is not like Florida, where you can drive 10 miles in, or even drive to Georgia,” she explained. “I mean, the flights shut down yesterday. We’re here and… we have to follow directions, and stay in our homes and go to places where there’s shelter and get out of the water and stay off the streets. So a lot of people do that .”
S. National Weather Service Guam via AP
Federal aid is already on the way
Residents had been preparing for days, the AP reports, filling gas tanks and collecting important documents.
Federal officials also acted quickly — the US military sent ships away from Guam as a precaution, while President Biden approved emergency declaration on Tuesday authorized the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to respond to the disaster.
FEMA Associate Administrator Anne Bink told NPR’s All Things Considered on Tuesday that the agency had already prepared in advance more than 100 staff members – including medical professionals and energy restoration experts – as well as relief supplies, with more than a million liters of water and 700,000 meals ready at a distribution center in Guam.
That positions FEMA to help assess damage and recovery as quickly as possible, Bink says. She says Guam’s relationship with the federal government — as it is a territory and not a state — is not a factor in relief efforts, although its location in the far Pacific poses some logistical challenges.
“That’s why we have a distribution center there. And that’s why a regional administrator meets with … leadership of the island every year to make sure that … the efforts made to prepare for disasters and be resilient against them are shared ,” she explains. “In fact, Guam has the most concrete infrastructure, including concrete power poles, and that can go a long way in the face of a storm of this magnitude.”
Guerrero says she’s grateful to Biden and FEMA for their help, and agrees that Guam’s status doesn’t change anything when it comes to relief. She says the agency’s response is comparable to that for other weather emergencies, such as hurricanes, in the continental United States.
“If anything, I think we will have more support quickly because of our isolated area, because we do not have the help of, say, other states that bring other resources to us,” she adds.
That process probably won’t start until sunrise at the earliest. Basa say the AP and the New York Times that storm conditions are expected to remain in Guam until Thursday morning local time.
The Guerrero broadcast interview was produced by Shelby Hawkins and Adam Bearne, and edited by Jan Johnson.