Typhoon Mawar tore through the US Pacific territory of Guam, leaving much of the island of about 150,000 people without power, with minor injuries but reportedly no fatalities, according to the office of Governor Lou Leon Guerrero (D). The Northern Mariana Islands were also impacted to a lesser degree by the typhoon, mostly on the island of Rota.
The Guam Homeland Security of Civil Defense released an extreme wind warning that was still in effect Thursday morning for the northeastern part of the island. Widespread destructive winds of 115 to 140 mph extended southward to the Dededo village as officials urged residents to remain indoors. The storm had winds equivalent to that of a category 4 Atlantic hurricane.
“We are still receiving phone calls on flooding, water coming through [people] doors, and doors breaking off,” said Bryan Hong of the National Weather Service. He urged residents to continue to remain indoors as updates regarding the hurricane are ever-changing. The island experienced heavy rain and is now dealing with utility outages and supply shortages.
According to CNN, despite the Mariana Islands’ location in the West Pacific Ocean, an area prone to tropical cyclones, a direct hit from a storm of this strength has only happened around eight times in the last 75 years. However, as the threat of climate change becomes direr, so does the strength, rain rate, average sea level, and, therefore, storm surge.
The probability of dangerous or even catastrophic weather events such as this one is becoming more and more common, and islands such as the US territory are the most vulnerable. Barrier island land exposed to hurricanes often means a loss of significant areas of beach and marsh.
High winds and water from storms lead to the destruction of homes, businesses, and crops, public infrastructure may also be compromised, and people may suffer serious injuries or even loss of life.
In the case of Typhoon Mawar, even though the storm did not directly hit the island, most of the island lost power. According to a statement on Facebook by the Guam Power Authority, nearly all of the circuits were impacted by the storm, and only about 1,000 of its 52,000 customers had electricity at one point. In neighboring Rota, power had been restored by the Commonwealth Utilities Corporate to 79% of its customer base on the island by May 29. Relief efforts are underway in both territories following the passage of the storm, which strengthened into super typhoon status soon after passing through the area.