Residents of Guam are dealing with damage, water supply issues and widespread power outages after the small US territory was walloped by hurricane-force winds and overwhelming rainfall from powerful Typhoon Mawar.
A typhoon warning for the island was lifted at 5 p.m. on Thursday, but strong winds persist and residents should stay at home until conditions improve, Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero said.
Guam weathered the worst of the storm’s direct impact when Mawar’s eye passed just north of the island Wednesday night local time, battering the island with powerful winds and torrential rains.
No deaths have been reported and there were no significant injuries, Guerrero told CNN on Thursday, adding that the typhoon did leave a lot of damage and flooding, but the situation was not as bad as authorities feared.
Water supply has also been disrupted in parts of the island, journalist Gina Reilly told CNN from Barrigada in central Guam on Thursday.
“I’ve been here for twenty years. This is the strongest one that I have experienced,” Reilly said.
Guam Power Authority is now working to restore power, it said in a statement Thursday. It reported on Wednesday that only 1,000 out of its approximately 52,000 customers still had power supply and Guam Memorial Hospital was operating on a standby generator.
The storm – the strongest to impact the island in decades – was still sweeping the island early Thursday with maximum sustained winds of 140 mph and gusts of up to 165 mph, the equivalent of a Category 4 Atlantic hurricane, the Joint Typhoon Warning Center said.
As the storm continues to move away from Guam, it has strengthened to the equivalent of a Category 5 Atlantic hurricane, with winds of 175 mph and gusts up to 205 mph. It’s not expected to threaten land for the next several days, the warning center said.
The island was inundated with rain, with some areas receiving more than 20 inches over 24 hours. The northern village of Dededo saw 24.5 inches while the central west coast village of Piti had more than 22 inches. Though conditions are beginning to improve, the threat isn’t over. Heavy rainfall, whipping winds and strong storm surge are still possible.
“We have weathered this storm. The worst has gone by, but we are going to continue experiencing tropical storm winds up to about 40 to 50 mph, so I ask you again to please stay home for your protection and your safety,” Guerrero said in a video address.
Before the storm’s arrival, officials warned it could bring life-threatening storm surge and dangerous coastal flooding. Residents in low-lying coastal areas were ordered by Guerrero to evacuate as it approached.
After President Joe Biden approved an emergency declaration for Guam ahead of the typhoon, FEMA said it has more than 130 staff deployed or prepared to respond if disaster relief is needed.
The USS Nimitz Carrier Strike Group is also headed toward Guam to potentially support recovery efforts following the typhoon, two US defense officials told CNN.
Mawar will continue to move west-northwest, away from Guam, toward the northern Philippines and Taiwan. The storm is forecast to strengthen over the next 12 to 24 hours, before slowly weakening.
Mawar is the fifth storm so far this year to reach this intensity, according to hurricane researcher Jeff Masters. Only five Category 5 strength storms develop each year on average, meaning 2023 has already had a year’s worth of these powerful storms, with nearly all of the Atlantic and Pacific hurricane/typhoon seasons still to come.
Guam is home to about 150,000 people and several US military installations. Super Typhoon Pongsona hit the island in 2002 with sustained winds of 144 miles per hour and gusts to 173 mph, according to the weather service.