Typhoon Mawar hit Guam as a Category 4 storm Wednesday, bringing hurricane-force winds and heavy rain marking the strongest storm to hit the U.S. Pacific territory in decades.
Mawar was passing through the Rota channel clipping the northern part of Guam before 9 p.m. local time with warnings in effect for winds of 115 mph or greater until 10:45 p.m. for tornado-like damage, the National Weather Service in Guam said.
The typhoon’s eye wall passed over the northern tip of Guam around 8:45 p.m. Wednesday evening with 145 mph winds, the National Weather Service said.
Mawar is located just 15 miles north, northeast of Guam moving to the northwest at 8 mph, according to the latest typhoon advisory.
“This is an extremely dangerous and life threatening situation,” Landon Aydlett, warning coordinator for the National Weather Service, said in a livestream Wednesday evening local time.
He warned locals to “take cover now” away from windows, with conditions expected to gradually subside Thursday morning local time.
So far, the typhoon has brushed across the northern tip of Guam. It is the strongest storm to hit the territory of over 150,000 people in decades, The Associated Press reported.
The storm has already knocked out power to tens of thousands. The island-wide power system was providing energy to just about 1,000 of its 52,000 customers, Guam Power Authority Wednesday afternoon local time.
Fierce winds and pouring rain started to batter the island Wednesday local time. The storm is potentially so severe that President Joe Biden signed an emergency declaration Tuesday to mobilize resources.
Mawar is expected to be a “triple threat” of torrential rains, life-threatening storm surge and Category 4 hurricane-force winds, according to Guam’s Homeland Security department.
“This is a very serious situation with steadily deteriorating conditions,” the department said.
Aydlett with the National Weather Service said in a livestream Wednesday afternoon local time: “Everyone’s going to be feeling this, and they’re going to be feeling this for a while,” urging people to stay inside.
Typhoon warnings were in place for Guam and Rota. Typhoon-force winds extended 50 miles from the storm’s center, and tropical-storm-force winds reached up to 140 miles from the center, the weather service said in an update at 1 p.m. local time.
Loss of power and access to water is likely to last days, if not weeks, after the storm passes. Flights were canceled from Tuesday through Wednesday, according to the island’s homeland security.
Mawar was expected to be the first “eye passage” on Guam since December 2002, the weather service said. Approximately 170,000 people live there.
That storm was Super Typhoon Pongsona, which had sustained winds of 144 mph and caused an estimated $700 million in damage, according to a NOAA report.
Luis Zamora, 40, is an electrical engineer who frequently visits the island from California for his work with the U.S. military and is hunkering down at a hotel with his colleagues. He was scheduled to leave on Thursday, but received notification Tuesday from United Airlines that his flight was canceled.
“Overnight, you can definitely see the difference in the wind,” Zamora said. “You can hear it a lot stronger … you can see the trees moving around.”
Originally from Florida, Zamora has prepared himself the same way he would for a hurricane: a full bathtub of water, charging his devices ahead of power loss, and stocking up on non-perishables. He also feels confident in the staff at his hotel, the Dusit Beach Resort, who have assured guests of their food stock and emergency plans.
“I think Guam is way ahead of, you know, storm preparedness,” Zamora said. “It’s just the outcome is something that you can’t really prepare for.”
Zamora and his colleagues are only a 10-minute drive from the airport, but it’s unclear how quickly they could return home after the storm passes.
“It’s just how much damage is it going to make and when is everything going to be able to be back up and running?”
Guam Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero signed an executive order mandating evacuations of low-lying areas and mobilizing the national guard to assist in getting people to shelters. In a letter to Biden, Guerrero warned that the typhoon is expected to cause “substantial destruction to our island.”
“I anticipate that this situation will be of such severity and magnitude that an effective response will be beyond the capability of the government of Guam and supplementary federal assistance will be necessary to save lives and to protect property, public health and safety and to mitigate the effects of this imminent catastrophe,” Guerrero said in the letter, which was posted to Instagram.
In an address on YouTube, Guerrero urged people to stay indoors and take necessary steps to prepare.
“I know it’s been quite some time since we’ve had a storm of this magnitude and it is frightening,” Guerrero said. “I ask you to remain calm, stay informed, and most importantly, be prepared.”