HAGATNA: Guam warned residents to remain sheltered in sturdy concrete homes after the most powerful typhoon to hit the Western Pacific island in years unleashed winds of up to 150mph (240kph) and torrential rain.
Early reports on Thursday morning had yet to show any deaths or serious injuries, but news was slow to come in after power was knocked out for all but 1,000 of the island’s 52,000 homes and businesses, according to the Guam Power Authority.
The eye of Super Typhoon Mawar tracked just north of Guam early Thursday, moving northwest at a sluggish 8mph, delivering rainfall of up to 2 inches (5cm) per hour overnight, the US National Weather Service (NWS) said.
Images posted on social media showed ominous clouds drifting over beaches, rains lashing buildings, and winds bending palm trees.
Wind speeds placed the storm in Category 4, the second-strongest designation on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind scale, and just short of Category 5.
As the storm moved away from Guam, home to about 170,000 people, including about 10,000 US military personnel, winds on the island remained at tropical force, reaching 35mph to 40mph, with gusts of 45mph up to 50mph, the weather service said.
“We’re still a little bit concerned about some of these outer bands. As this thing is intensifying, the wind field is increasing faster than the motion away from the island,” said Landon Aydlett, the warning coordination meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Guam.
But people in Guam take typhoons seriously and typically hunker down in reinforced concrete structures, Aydlett said.
Guam’s Office of Civil Defense issued a bulletin warning people that the highest stage of alert, Condition of Readiness 1, remained in effect.
“Remain in shelter within sturdy concrete homes with concrete roofs until COR 4 is announced,” the bulletin said. “In addition to the tropical storm force winds, hazardous surf and seas remain. Remain out of the water due to life-threatening conditions.”
Guam Governor Lou Leon Guerrero promised in a social media post to provide an update as soon as officials were safely able to survey the damage.
She has compared the storm to 1962’s Typhoon Karen, which flattened much of the island.