Typhoon Mawar: Guam coast residents evacuate as approaching storm threatens deadly storm surge and damaging winds

Typhoon Mawar: Guam coast residents evacuate as approaching storm threatens deadly storm surge and damaging winds


The outer bands of Typhoon Mawar lashed Guam on Wednesday ahead of a potential landfall that could devastate US territory with deadly winds, treacherous storm surges and heavy rain.

The Eye of Mawar was hovering about 30 miles northeast of Guam Wednesday evening and could still make landfall as it advances, a notice from the Guam National Weather Service said. Even if the storm does not hit the island directly, its impact could be catastrophic.

At around 5 p.m. local time (3 a.m. ET), the storm’s maximum sustained winds were 140 mph with gusts of up to 165 mph, the equivalent of a Category 4 hurricane in the Atlantic, according to the Joint Typhoon Warning Center.

“Treat these impending extreme winds as if an approaching tornado and immediately move to an inside room or shelter NOW!” ,” the Guam Weather Service warned Wednesday evening.

Guam’s power grid was significantly affected by the storm, the island’s electric authority said Wednesday.

Only about 1,000 of its roughly 52,000 customers had power after almost all of its circuits were affected, Guam Power Authority said in a statement on Facebook around 6 p.m. local time.

Guam Memorial Hospital is currently operating on a backup generator, he added.

“We are working hard to maintain the last remaining customers during the storm,” the electricity authority said. “Our GPA team is ready to begin restoration immediately as soon as the winds decrease to safe levels,” he said.

The weather service issued a typhoon warning for the island for Wednesday, and flash flood and coastal flood warnings through Thursday morning.

In anticipation of severe storm surge and potentially catastrophic coastal flooding, Guam Governor Lou Leon Guerrero issued an executive order on Tuesday ordering the evacuation of low-lying coastal areas.

“As sea levels rise, residents will only have minutes to evacuate and respond. Thus, we must prepare now and plan for the worst,” the governor’s office said in a statement.

Mawar threatens “torrential rains that could lead to landslides and flash flooding, catastrophic winds and life-threatening storm surges,” the weather service said Wednesday morning.

If it makes landfall, Mawar could be the most powerful storm to directly impact Guam – home to around 150,000 people, as well as several US military installations – since at least 1976, when Typhoon Pamela hit with sustained winds of 140 mph.

If Mawar’s sustained winds are above 140mph, it would be the strongest since Super Typhoon Karen, widely considered the worst storm to ever hit the island, which hit in 1962 with sustained winds of 172mph.

Although Guam is in the western Pacific Ocean – an area subject to the most powerful tropical cyclones in the world – it is extremely rare for the island to be hit directly by a storm of this strength. Only eight such storms have passed through it in the past 75 years, because hitting the roughly 30-mile-wide island in the middle of the vast Pacific Ocean is akin to threading a tiny needle.

Mawar’s slow pace – around 7mph on Wednesday evening – would compound the effects of the wind and bring greater amounts of rainfall to the island than a faster moving storm.

A storm surge of up to 25 feet above normal high tide is possible, the weather service said. This would be life-threatening and pose a significant risk to vulnerable coastal areas and likely lead to severe coastal erosion. The weather service warned that even large boats could be torn from their moorings.

Deaths from storm surges are historically the leading cause of hurricane-related deaths in the United States, according to the Weather Service.

The storm could bring between 15 and 20 inches of rain with even higher local amounts possible, the weather service said. The downpour will likely trigger landslides, cause rivers and streams to overflow and bring flooding to areas that do not normally experience such events.

President Joe Biden on Tuesday approved an emergency declaration for the island, and FEMA announced it has more than 50 emergency relief personnel and dozens of other federal partners ready to provide emergency relief. emergency aid in the field.

The storm is “one that will be remembered for decades,” said Landon Aydlett, the meteorologist in charge of coordinating warnings for the Guam Weather Service.

Officials warned that the storm would have devastating effects on the island’s residents, infrastructure and landscape.

Significant roof and structural damage is possible due to high winds, especially for buildings that are not reinforced with concrete.

Junior Level Drew Lovullo/AP

A view of Guam’s Noverlooking Tumon Bay on Tuesday as Typhoon Mawar approached.

“Electricity and water may be unavailable for days or even weeks after the storm passes” and “most trees will be snapped or uprooted,” the local weather service warned.

Between 50 and 70 percent of Guam’s vegetation could experience defoliation — the unnatural removal of much of a plant’s leaves and foliage, the weather service said.

Human-caused climate change is contributing to an upward trend in intense storms like Typhoon Mawar. Not only do these systems generate more precipitation and larger storm surges, but they are also more likely to be stronger and intensify faster, CNN reported.

Mawar intensified rapidly from Monday to Tuesday, with peak wind speeds increasing by 50 mph in just 18 hours. Scientists have warned that the rapid intensification of tropical cyclones – like typhoons and hurricanes – is more likely as ocean temperatures climb and set the stage for the cyclones to explode into killer storms at a breakneck pace.

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