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Two people describe the power of Typhoon Mawar in Guam: NPR

Typhoon Mawar brought 140mph winds and storm surges.


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Two people describe the power of Typhoon Mawar in Guam: NPR

Typhoon Mawar brought 140mph winds and storm surges.


Hiding in her hotel room, Lauren Swaddell could hear the wind howling as Typhoon Mawar approached Guam.

“The storm is going to hit in about two hours,” she said in a voice memo to NPR, recorded Wednesday afternoon local time.

“I look out the window and just see massive waves in what is normally a super calm bay. Trees are losing their branches. Coconut palms are flying everywhere.”

“It’s so strange to me that it’s only 2pm right now and I feel like it’s been an entire day…Time moves so slowly with this storm.”

At one point, Swaddell says she could feel the hotel walls shaking.

Swaddell, 33, grew up in Guam and now works in Washington, DC. She heads home for a work trip, just in time for the Category 4 storm to pass over the island.

It brought 140mph winds and forecasts of a 25ft storm surge, knocking out power across the island. The typhoon is the strongest to hit the US island territory in decades.

“This is my fourth major typhoon on Guam,” Swaddell said.

Typhoon Pongsona was the last major storm to hit the island – a Category 4 storm that hit Guam in December 2002. Swaddell said Mawar’s experience was different for her.

“I was in college [in 2002], and I was still a child. So I didn’t know the level of responsibility and the fear that an adult would have in preparing for a typhoon, because my mother took care of all that… My mother kept me safe,” said- she said.

This time it was Swaddell helping out: “I went to my mom’s house, helped her put the house together.”

Guam is still under flash flood warnings, so a full damage assessment will take longer. But Governor Lou Leon Guerrero said morning edition that she knows of at least one rescue mission in which eight people were taken to a shelter.

“There’s a lot of anxiety about not knowing the outcome of what’s going to happen to the island around us,” said Amanda Shelton, a Democratic senator in the Guam legislature.

Shelton prepared for the storm while staying in the northern part of the island. In voice memos to NPR, she said she was grateful President Joe Biden approved the island’s request for a state of emergency so quickly — the island has local and federal emergency responders loans.

“We have people here on the ground ready to respond as soon as they are needed, as soon as we can get out safely after the storm has passed,” Shelton said.

She said despite concerns about the storm, she was encouraged by the community’s response.

“I think that’s a positive thing to consider over the next few hours,” she said before the storm hit. “We are together, and we can pray together and weather the storm together and help in any way we can.”

While waiting for the storm to pass, the Swaddell Hotel housed displaced guests in a ballroom farther from all windows. As the wind pounded the outside of the building, the guests inside shared a meal.

“There’s just a group of people sharing drinks, playing games, meeting for the first time and sharing stories,” she said.

“There’s the stress, but there’s also this feeling that we’re all in this together. And there’s nothing you can really do but get out of it.”

The storm is expected to move away from the island starting Wednesday evening local time, according to the National Weather Service (NWS).

“Mawar is expected to slowly intensify over the next few days, possibly becoming a super typhoon over the Philippine Sea well west of the Marianas,” the NWS said.

NPR News

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