Guam residents and officials emerged from their homes and shelters Thursday to assess the damage done to the US Pacific territory after a long night of sheltering as Typhoon Mawar’s howling winds tore apart trees, upended vehicles and left service 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 Brandon Aydlett, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. The island’s international airport was flooded, and the swirling storm caused a storm surge and waves that crashed against inshore reefs.
“We are waking up to a rather disturbing scene across Guam. We’re looking out our door and what used to be a jungle looks like toothpicks, looks like a scene from the movie ‘Twister,’ with trees blown apart,” said Landon Aydlett, his twin brother and fellow NWS meteorologist.
“Most of Guam is dealing with a huge mess that will take weeks to clean up,” he added.
The strongest typhoon to hit the territory of some 150,000 people since 2002, Mawar made landfall briefly around 9 p.m. local time Wednesday night as a Category 4 storm at Andersen Air Force Base in far north the island, weather service officials said.
“It was on land for about 30 to 35 minutes before coming back to shore,” said Patrick Doll, another NWS meteorologist.
As it moved slowly over the island, the typhoon sent solar panels into the air and collapsed part of the outer wall of a hotel, according to videos posted on social media. At what seemed their greatest intensity, the winds screeched and howled like jets, and water inundated some houses.
Leah del Mundo spent the night with her family in their concrete home in Chalan Pago, in central Guam. She told The Associated Press that they tried to sleep but were awakened “by the violent movement of the blinds from the typhoon and strong whistling winds.”
“Not our first rodeo,” he said via text message. “We have been through worse. But we prepare for cleanup, repairs and restoration afterwards.”
Buildings made of concrete in storm-prone Guam seemed to work well. “If your house is not made of concrete, your life and property are in danger with typhoons like these,” del Mundo said.
In Tumon, on Guam’s northeast coast, winds ripped a granite countertop from a hotel’s outdoor bar and hurled it 4 feet (about a meter) into the air. Guests scrambled to stack chairs to prop up the doors, and the windows sagged and creaked.
“It was like a freight train going by outside,” said Thomas Wooley, who recounted wind and rain blowing through the aluminum shutters of his family’s concrete home overlooking Tumon Bay. When dawn broke, he found his outer china cabinet overturned and its contents smashed to the ground. A cousin wielding a chainsaw helped remove fallen branches.
“We have a lot of work to do,” Wooley said. “It will take a few days to clean it up.”
The extent of the damage was difficult to determine early on, as power and internet failures made communication with the remote island difficult.
Governor Lou Leon Guerrero and Lieutenant Governor Josh Tenorio were assessing the situation after the island “received the full impact of the typhoon overnight,” emergency management officials said in a statement. They planned a drive through to look for major damage or blocked roads.
J. Asprer, a police officer at the Dededo Police Station in northern Guam, said before dawn that he had received no reports of injuries, but several police cars and personal vehicles had been damaged by debris and debris. uprooted trees made some roads impassable. Most of the overnight calls came from concerned people off the island who were unable to reach family members.
“We told them that we will have to wait until the storm clears up a bit,” he said.
Ray Leon Guerrero, an assistant mayor’s office in Barrigada who is not related to the governor, said a village of about 9,000 people in central Guam stayed in the office overnight and heard objects banging on the ceiling and exterior walls constantly.
“Oh man. It was pretty loud,” he said.
The Guam weather service office in Tiyan said it would close operations in the morning so workers can get home to families and assess damage to their homes. The counterparts in the Honolulu office took over their duties.
In a sign of how much help Guam might need, the Navy has ordered the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier strike group to the island to aid 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 south of Japan and were expected to reach Guam in three to four days, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. to discuss ship movements that have not yet been 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.
As of early Thursday morning, Mawar was centered 75 miles (121 kilometers) northwest of Guam and 85 miles (137 kilometers) west of Rota, Guam’s northern neighbor, and was moving west-northwest at 13 kph. (8 mph).
Power was also without power for all of Rota, Commonwealth Utilities Corp. said Wednesday night. The island has about 2,500 residents, according to the US Census Bureau.
The storm strengthened to 150 mph (241 kph) winds on Thursday to regain its super typhoon status, according to the weather service. Mawar, a Malay word meaning “pink,” is forecast to intensify further.
After moving away from Guam, the storm is expected to move generally northwestward over a large expanse of empty ocean for days, and could threaten Taiwan as early as next week.
Guam is a crucial hub for US forces in the Pacific, with some 6,800 service members assigned to the island, according to the Pentagon. Military officials evacuated personnel, dependents, and employees, sent ships out to sea, and removed aircraft from the island or secured them in protective hangars.