The day after Typhoon Mawar hit Guam, ‘what was once a jungle looks like toothpicks’

Guam residents and officials emerged from homes and shelters on Thursday to assess damage to the U.S. Pacific Territory after a long night of setback as howling winds from Typhoon Mawar tore through trees, overturned vehicles and knocked people out public services.

The central and northern parts of the island received more than 2 feet of rain as the eyewall passed, and most of Guam received about a foot of rain during the storm, said National Weather Service meteorologist Brandon Aydlett. . The island’s international airport was flooded and the swirling storm caused storm surge and waves to crash into coastal reefs.

“We wake up to a rather eerie scene out there across Guam. We look out our door and what was once a jungle looks like toothpicks – it looks like a scene from the movie ‘Twister’, with trees just beaten apart,” said Landon Aydlett, his twin brother and fellow NWS meteorologist.

“Most of Guam is facing a big mess that is going to take weeks to clean up,” he added.

Trees lay sideways after Typhoon Mawar outside of Hagatna, Guam on May 25, 2023.

The most powerful typhoon to hit the territory of around 150,000 people since 2002, Mawar made short landfall at around 9 p.m. local time on Wednesday evening as a Category 4 storm at Andersen Air Force Base in the northern tip of the island, weather service officials said.

“It stayed on land for about 30 to 35 minutes before coming back offshore,” said Patrick Doll, another NWS meteorologist.

As it slowly crept over the island, the typhoon blew solar panels and collapsed part of a hotel’s exterior wall, according to videos posted on social media. At what appeared to be its peak intensity, the winds screamed and howled like jets, and water flooded some homes.

Leah del Mundo spent the night with her family at their concrete home in Chalan Pago, central Guam. She told The Associated Press they had tried to sleep but were awakened “by violent shaking of shutters from the typhoon and the whistling of high winds”.

“This isn’t our first rodeo,” she said via text message. “We’ve seen worse. But we’re preparing for cleaning, repairs, restoration afterwards.”

The concrete buildings of storm-prone Guam seemed to be doing well. “If your house isn’t concrete, your life and property are at risk with typhoons like these,” del Mundo said.

In this photo provided by the U.S. Coast Guard, downed tree branches litter a neighborhood in Yona, Guam, May 25, 2023, after Typhoon Mawar hit the island.

In this photo provided by the U.S. Coast Guard, downed tree branches litter a neighborhood in Yona, Guam, May 25, 2023, after Typhoon Mawar hit the island.

In Tumon, on Guam’s northeast coast, winds ripped a granite countertop from a hotel’s outdoor bar and tossed it about three feet into the air. Guests rushed to pile chairs to reinforce doors, and windows buckled and creaked.

“It was like a freight train passing outside,” said Thomas Wooley, who recounted how wind and rain blew through the aluminum shutters of his family’s concrete house overlooking the bay. of Tumon. When day broke, he found their outdoor dresser overturned and its contents shattered on the floor. A cousin armed with a chainsaw helped clear the fallen branches.

“We have tons of work to do,” Wooley said. “It’s going to take a few days to clean everything up.”

Trees are stripped of their leaves after Typhoon Mawar outside Hagatna, Guam on May 25, 2023.

Trees are stripped of their leaves after Typhoon Mawar outside Hagatna, Guam on May 25, 2023.

The extent of the damage was difficult to determine at first, with power and internet outages making communication with the remote island difficult.

Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero and Lt. Gov. Josh Tenorio were assessing the situation after the island “received the full brunt of the typhoon overnight,” emergency management officials said in a statement. They scheduled a drive-by to look for any major damage or blocked roadway.

J. Asprer, a police officer from the Dededo precinct in northern Guam, said before dawn he had received no reports of injuries, but several police cruisers and personal vehicles were damaged by debris and uprooted trees made some roads impassable. Most of the overnight calls were from worried off-island people who were unable to reach family members.

“We told them we had to wait for the storm to clear up a bit,” he said.

Ray Leon Guerrero, who is unrelated to the governor and serves as deputy mayor in Barrigada, a village of about 9,000 people in central Guam, said he stayed in the office overnight and had constantly heard objects slamming against the roof and outside walls.

“Oh man. It was pretty loud,” he said.

The Guam Weather Service office in Tiyan said it would shut down operations in the morning so workers could return home and assess the damage to their homes. Honolulu office counterparts have resumed their duties.

As a sign of the help Guam may need, the Navy ordered the strike group from the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz to head to the island to help with the recovery effort, according to a US official. The Nimitz, along with the USS Bunker Hill, a cruiser, and the USS Wayne E. Meyer, a destroyer, were in southern Japan and should arrive in Guam in three or four days, said the official, who s is expressed on condition of anonymity. to discuss ship movements not yet made public.

Guam is about 3,800 miles (6,115 kilometers) west of Hawaii and 1,600 miles (1,575 kilometers) east of Manila, the capital of the Philippines.

Early Thursday, Mawar was centered 75 miles (121 kilometers) northwest of Guam and 85 miles (137 kilometers) west of Rota, Guam’s neighbor to the north, moving west-north- west at 8 mph (13 km/h).

Electricity has also been cut for all of Rota, the Commonwealth Utilities Corp said on Wednesday. The island has about 2,500 residents, according to the US Census Bureau.

The storm strengthened to winds of 150 mph (241 km/h) on Thursday to regain its super typhoon status, according to the weather service. Mawar, a Malaysian word meaning “rose”, is expected to intensify further.

After moving away from Guam, the storm is expected to track generally northwest over a large expanse of empty ocean for days, and it could threaten Taiwan next week.

Guam is a crucial hub for US forces in the Pacific, with about 6,800 military personnel assigned to the island, according to the Pentagon. Military officials evacuated personnel, dependents and employees, sent ships out to sea and moved planes off the island or secured them in protective hangars.

USA voanews

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