Typhoon Mawar brings punishing winds, power outages to Guam


Punishing winds battered Guam on Wednesday as one of the worst storms to face the Pacific U.S. territory in decades approached the island, and authorities issued flash flood and extreme wind warnings and asked residents to shelter indoors.

“Many of us right now are feeling the full strength of Typhoon Mawar,” Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero (D) said around 4 p.m. local time, calling it “a frightening experience that hasn’t been felt for over two decades.”

The eyewall — the ring of intense storms around the typhoon’s calm center — was carrying winds of up to 140 mph across northern Guam as it passed over the Rota Channel, bringing “destructive winds” and lightning to the island, the National Weather Service said in a Facebook video around 6:15 p.m. local time. The “extremely dangerous” conditions were expected to continue for several hours, as the storm moved west to northwest, it said.

“This is about as bad as it gets,” the Weather Service said.

The agency also extended a warning for “extremely dangerous hurricane winds” covering the northern part of the island until 8 p.m. and urged residents to act “as if a tornado was approaching.”

Doors rattled, trees were uprooted, and power poles were downed as Mawar neared the island. It weakened from Category 5 strength as it approached the region, but it was still a Category 4 storm as of Wednesday evening, according to the Weather Service.

In a Wednesday evening update, Guerrero said the typhoon was expected to weaken overnight and into Thursday. “Once the typhoon starts moving north-northwest, we will start experiencing less intensity of the wind,” she said, adding that she would be assessing the damage to the island as soon as it was safe to go outside.

Ahead of the storm, some U.S. Coast Guard ships sailed away from the territory — a hub for U.S. forces in the Pacific — as a precaution, while other vessels were hauled out of the water or tied down for heavy weather.

Guam braces for floods, landslides and high winds from Typhoon Mawar

President Biden also approved an emergency declaration that orders federal authorities to support the local response to the typhoon.

On Tuesday, Guerrero ordered residents in low-lying coastal and flood-prone areas to evacuate to higher ground. Officials also encouraged people living in houses made out of flimsier materials, including wood and tin, to consider relocating to emergency shelters. Landslides are a major risk.

Guam braces for floods, landslides and high winds from Typhoon Mawar

Guam has a population of a little more than 150,000 people, many of whom live in villages dotted around the coast. Initially, the southern villages of Inalahan, Ipan, Talofofo, Malesso, Hagat and Humatak were under particular threat from a severe ocean storm surge in addition to destructive winds, although weather officials later adjusted their forecasts, saying a change in the wind direction meant the likely path of the storm would bring increasing water levels and surf along the western and northern sides of Guam.

Residents stocked up on groceries and fresh water as authorities predicted power and water could be lost throughout the island, perhaps for days.

All but 1,000 of the Guam Power Authority’s 52,000 customers had lost power by Wednesday afternoon, the agency said in a statement.

The agency said that most of its customers still had power at 1 p.m. local time, but “thereafter, circuits including transmission lines began tripping in a cascading effect.” It was “able to avoid a complete Island-wide blackout when the system severed into two grids” and was working “to maintain the last remaining customers through the storm, which contributes to quicker recovery after the winds die down later tonight or in the early morning hours,” it said.

Guam has a long record of tropical storms. Typhoon Karen, a Category 5 storm in 1962, killed 11 people and left thousands homeless. Typhoon Omar slammed into the island in 1992, injuring dozens of people, destroying houses and cutting power all over the island, while Typhoon Pongsona, a Category 4 storm, struck in 2002.

Weather officials expect tropical-storm-force winds will persist into Thursday morning and urged residents to remain in their homes and shelters until then.

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