Typhoon Mawar crept toward Guam Wednesday afternoon, bringing hurricane-force winds that snapped trees and left much of the US territory without power, authorities said.
Meteorologists warned that the storm, with the strength of a Category 4 hurricane, was the strongest to approach the Pacific island in years, and could intensify by Wednesday evening. The Guam Electricity Authority said the island’s power grid provides power to only about 1,000 of its 52,000 customers, and that it is too dangerous for repair crews to venture out.
Mawar didn’t officially make landfall on Guam until mid-afternoon, and the island was likely to take a direct hit, said Brandon Boconte, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Guam. He added that the western storm surge has moved over the island, and residents are already feeling hurricane-force winds.
In a sign of the storm’s strength, the radar unit that sends images of the storm into Mr. Bukunt’s office has smashed, and the largest tree outside the office is smashed into its driveway.
The nearly 150,000 people who live on Guam, an island roughly the size of Chicago located about 1,500 miles east of the Philippines, are accustomed to tropical cyclones. The last major hurricane, Super Typhoon Pongsona, came ashore in 2002 at the strength of a Category 4 hurricane and caused over $700 million in damage.
In recent years, damage and deaths from major storms on Guam have been minimized due to strong building codes and advanced warnings. In most cases, “we just grill, cool off, and adjust” when a tropical cyclone rips through, said Wayne Chargolave, 45, who works for the local government housing authority.
But because it’s been so long since Bongsuna, “we have a whole generation that hasn’t experienced this before,” he added. “So a little bit of doubt started creeping into my mind. Are we really ready for this?”
The weather service said in an update that the center of the storm was about 40 miles east-southeast of Guam at about 1:30 p.m. Wednesday. The storm was moving northwest at about three miles per hour, and its impact was expected to peak in the early evening.
Mawar was weakened to Category 5 strength, but its sustained maximum sustained winds were pushing around 140 mph, the equivalent of a Category 4 hurricane, Mr. Boconte said. Its southern wall was still offshore, but would have brought stronger winds to the island, along with heavy rain.
“Before we went off the radar,” he said, “this was where the really bad weather was.”
President Biden declared a state of emergency on Guam Tuesday night, allowing federal agencies to assist with relief efforts. By Wednesday, the island was firmly in a state of emergency, with evacuation orders in place, A.J Flash flood warning Stop commercial aviation.
All planes either left the island before the storm or were placed in hangars, the Air Force said in an email at Andersen Air Force Base in Guam.
Tropical cyclones are called hurricanes or hurricanes, depending on where they originate. Typhoons, which tend to form from May to October, are tropical cyclones that develop in the northwest Pacific Ocean and affect Asia. Studies say that climate change has increased the intensity of tropical cyclones, and the potential for destruction, because a warmer ocean provides more energy to fuel them.
Mawar, a Malaysian name meaning “rose,” is the second named storm in the western Pacific Ocean this season. First Tropical Storm Sanfu weakened in less than two days.
Carlo Sijimbiluri Panglinan, 42, who sells container homes in a store in Barrigada Heights, a rich, hilly neighborhood near Guam’s international airport, said he suspected the storm would be worse than whatever he’s been living in.
However, Mr. Panglinan added, he is concerned about people who do not have adequate shelter, and animals who do not have owners to look after them, including stray dogs.
The majority of the island’s population is Catholic, and Guam’s Roman Catholic Church said in a message to worshipers Wednesday that the fear and anxiety permeating the island was understandable, in part because Super Typhoon Pongsuna left an “indelible impression” that can still be felt after more From 20 years old.
“There is goodness to be found in storms,” the letter read. “The kindness and caring people show during such experiences is one of them.”
John YoonAnd Victoria KimAnd McKenna Oxenden And Jin Yoo Young Contribute to the preparation of reports.