Guam braces for ‘extensive damage’ from Typhoon Mawar

Typhoon Mawar is intensifying rapidly as it threatens to strike Guam.
Published: May. 22, 2023 at 12:43 PM HST|Updated: May. 22, 2023 at 5:28 PM HST
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HONOLULU (AP) — Guam’s governor urged residents to stay home and warned the island could take a direct hit from Typhoon Mawar as the storm strengthened on its path toward the U.S. territory in the Pacific.

Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero urged residents in a YouTube message to remain calm and prepare for Mawar, which the weather service said could hit the southern part of Guam at 10 a.m. local time Wednesday. Guam is 20 hours ahead of Honolulu.

“We may take a direct hit,” Patrick Doll, lead meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Tiyan, Guam, told The Associated Press. “If we don’t take a direct hit, it’s going to be very close.”

The center of the storm was 260 miles (418 kilometers) southeast of Guam, where it’s already Tuesday and moving 7 mph (11 kmh) toward Guam, Doll said.

It’s expected to arrive as a “high-end” Category 3 storm, possibly reaching “low-end” Category 4, he said. Sustained winds were at 105 mph (169 kmh), gusting up to 124 mph (200 kmh), he said.

The typhoon could cause “extensive damage,” he said.

The governor said she would place Guam essentially in a lockdown effective 1 p.m. Tuesday. “Unless you’re a first responder, you do not leave your house,” Doll said.

Rain from the storm’s outer bands was starting to fall Tuesday morning, he said.

A storm surge of 4 to 6 feet (1.21-1.82 meters) above the normal high tide was expected and could reach up to 8 feet (2.4 meters). Surf was expected to build sharply in the next day or two along south- and east-facing reefs with dangerous surf of 15 to 25 feet (4.5 to 7.6 meters) Tuesday afternoon into Wednesday, the weather service said.

At the island’s grocery and hardware stores Monday, people were leaving with shopping carts full of canned goods, cases of water and generators, the Pacific Daily News reported.

The Guam Department of Education was preparing to open emergency shelters Tuesday, KUAM reported.

Rota, an island in the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, was also under a typhoon warning, Doll said. Tinian and Saipan in the northern Marianas, were under tropical storm warnings.

Some people in those areas are still in temporary shelters or tents after Category 5 Super Typhoon Yutu in 2018, Doll noted.

“Guam takes a Category 4 or 5 hit every five to seven years. Mother Nature has spared us as of late,” Doll said, adding that the last direct hit was in 2002. “So, we are way overdue.”