Mawar Becomes a Super Typhoon After Lashing Guam: Latest Storm Updates
Guam residents awoke Thursday to survey the damage after a long night of whipping winds and thunderstorms from Mawar, a typhoon that toppled coconut and mango trees and knocked out power across much of the Pacific Rim , when its strength peaked late Wednesday night.
The storm had been upgraded to a super typhoon, meaning its maximum sustained wind speeds were at least 150 mph while sweeping open water.
As the storm swept across Guam, it brought Category 4 winds of about 140 miles per hour “just before midnight” local time Wednesday, according to a forecaster with the National Weather Service in Guam, who released updates via livestream early in the morning and after sunrise on Thursday.
“As the sunlight shines through, we’re waking up to a pretty disturbing scene out there in Guam,” one of the meteorologists said during an 8 a.m. Thursday update from the service’s Guam office. “We look out our door and what used to be a jungle looks like toothpicks. It looks like a scene from the movie Twister where trees are about to be torn apart.”
There were no immediate reports of deaths or injuries. But the storm was so powerful it destroyed wind sensors and radars that send meteorological data to the local weather service office — and downed all but two coconut palms outside the building, including “our prized mango tree,” according to one meteorologist. on the property.
The Weather Service had previously said it had been a long night of unrest for the island, with stormy conditions beginning Wednesday afternoon. More than 30 centimeters of rain fell over Guam, with up to 60 centimeters in some areas, meteorologists said.
The good news, weather forecasters said, was that conditions began to calm down after the storm left the Marianas archipelago, of which Guam is the southernmost and largest territory.
However, the service cautioned against keeping its typhoon alerts active for Guam and Rota, the closest island, as tropical winds could hit there later in the morning. The service said a significant portion of Guam was short of phone service and that its office would close and move forecast operations to Honolulu so employees could return to their homes.
During a livestream aimed at islanders Wednesday night, Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero of Guam urged people to stay home “for your safety and protection” until conditions are declared safe. Howling winds and popping noises could be heard in the background as she spoke to the camera.
“What we are feeling right now is the eye looking over the Rota Channel and the strongest winds of this typhoon are what we are experiencing, especially in the north,” she said, adding, “I will assess the devastation of our island, as soon as it is safe for me to go outside.”
Government personnel were still assessing the damage.
A spokesman for the Federal Emergency Management Agency said on Twitter that the agency had activated its coordination center to assist Guam and the Mariana Islands.
The super typhoon regained strength and, according to forecast models, could move west towards the Philippines and Taiwan.
The storm was the strongest to hit Guam in years and is expected to continue generating tropical-gale-force winds before weakening on Thursday, the weather service warned. The storm had moved 45 miles northwest of Guam by 1 a.m. local time, but typhoon warnings were expected to last through most of the morning, the weather forecaster said.
The Guam Power Authority said the island’s power grid was only providing power to about 1,000 of its roughly 52,000 customers as of Wednesday afternoon and that it was too dangerous for repair crews to venture outside. Those numbers had not been updated in Guam as of Thursday morning.
The approximately 150,000 people who live on Guam, an island almost the size of Chicago and located about 1500 miles east of the Philippines, are used to tropical cyclones. The last major typhoon, Super Typhoon Pongsona, made landfall in 2002 with the force of a Category 4 hurricane, causing more than $700 million in damage.
Tighter building codes and other advances have minimized damage and deaths from severe storms on Guam in recent years. More often than not, when a tropical cyclone blows through, “we just grill, relax and adjust,” said Wayne Chargualaf, 45, who works with the local government’s housing department.
But because Pongsona’s been so long, “we have a whole generation that has never experienced this,” he added. “So a little bit of doubt started to creep into my head. Are we really ready for this?”
On Tuesday, President Biden declared a state of emergency for Guam and allowed federal authorities to help with the relief effort. Local officials also issued evacuation orders and halted commercial aviation.
The storm also impacted the US military, which has a number of key installations on the island. All military aircraft either left the island before the storm or were placed in protective hangars, Lt. Cmdr. So said Katie Koenig of the US Navy in a statement on Wednesday. All military ships also left, except for one ship that stayed in port because of an engine problem, she said.
Tropical cyclones are called typhoons or hurricanes depending on where they form. Typhoons, which tend to form from May to October, are tropical cyclones that develop in the Northwest Pacific and strike Asia. Studies say that climate change has increased the intensity of such storms and the potential for destruction, as a warmer ocean provides more energy to fuel them.
Mawar, a Malaysian name meaning “rose,” is the second named storm in the western Pacific this season. The first, Tropical Storm Sanvu, weakened in less than two days.
John Yoon, Victoria Kim, McKenna Oxenden And Jin Yu Young contributed to the reporting.