(NEW YORK) — A powerful typhoon taking aim at Guam could be the strongest tropical cyclone to impact the U.S. island territory in decades.
As of Wednesday 7:50 p.m. local time (5:50 a.m. ET), the eye of Typhoon Mawar was passing over or very near northern Guam with 140 mile per hour winds — equivalent to a Category 4 hurricane. Mawar could make a rare landfall on Guam, which would mark the first time since 1976 that the island was directly hit by a Category 4 typhoon.
An earlier forecast projected Mawar to hit the island as a super typhoon packing winds as strong as 160 mph — equivalent to a Category 5 hurricane.
Most of Guam was without power by Wednesday afternoon, with the island’s energy grid providing electricity to only 1,000 of its approximately 52,000 customers due to Mawar’s “severe adverse conditions,” according to the Guam Power Authority.
“We were able to avoid a complete island-wide blackout when the system severed into two grids,” the agency said in a statement. “We are working hard to maintain the last remaining customers through the storm which contributes to quicker recovery after the winds die down later tonight or in the early morning hours.”
The National Weather Service has issued a typhoon warning for Guam, which is the westernmost territory of the United States, located in Micronesia in the western Pacific Ocean.
Rainfall on the island could accumulate to as much as 20 inches, while storm surge is forecast to reach as high as 25 feet. Mawar was already producing waves up to 45 feet in the ocean near Guam on Tuesday.
Guam’s Office of Civil Defense advised residents on Tuesday to seek shelter immediately, as Mawar is “expected to make a direct hit or very near passage for Guam.”
“There is a potential of a catastrophic and devastating event for Guam,” the office said in a bulletin.
Guam Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero also urged residents on Tuesday to take cover, as “damaging winds” were expected to start soon.
“Please take all the necessary precautions in an abundance of safety before we feel the full strength of the super typhoon,” Guerrero said in a social media post.
One emergency shelter in northern Guam had already reached capacity, according to the governor.
President Joe Biden has declared an emergency in Guam due to Mawar and ordered federal assistance to support the response to the typhoon.
Mawar could be one of the strongest typhoons to impact Guam since the 1960s — the start of the satellite era.
The most destructive typhoon to hit Guam was Karen in 1962, with 155 mph winds and wind gusts of at least 170 mph, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Most homes on the island were destroyed.
More recently, in 2002, Super Typhoon Pongsona moved near the island with 144 mph winds and gusts up to 173 mph, causing $700 million in damage at the time, according to NOAA.
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