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Super typhoon Mawar tears through Guam

Typhoon Mawar has now begun its exit out of the Marianas region, but Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands are still experiencing heavy winds and rains, as well as potentially dangerous storm surge.

(CN) — Guam residents will continue to shelter in place, at least for now, in the aftermath of the strongest typhoon to hit the island in decades.  

Typhoon Mawar blasted through Guam on Wednesday, leaving ripped-up jungles, flipped cars and thousands without power. Although the worst of the typhoon force conditions had subsided by Thursday morning, the island still faces intense winds and rains and it is still considered unsafe to be outside.

Peak typhoon level conditions occurred just before midnight with typhoon force conditions fading into the morning. There have been no immediate reports of any deaths or serious injuries. Early reports coming out of the island have indicated widespread power outages and minor flooding.

Guam Power Authority said the power system was only providing energy to 1,000 of its 52,000 customers on Wednesday morning. The utility also said that Guam Memorial Hospital was operating on backup generator power, as it is not yet safe to send teams out to address outages.

Social media posts have shown overturned trucks, collapsing walls and power lines and riotous seas. The National Weather Service even showed the scene outside its building.

“We’re looking out our door at what used to be a jungle,” NWS science and operations officer Brandon Aydlett said. “Looks like toothpicks, looks like a scene from the movie 'Twister,' trees just thrashed apart, we lost most of our non-coconut trees out there.”

In a Facebook update where whistling winds could be heard in the background, Governor Lou Leon Guerrero asked Guam residents to stay safe while the storm wound down.

“I ask you to please stay home until I declare Condition of Readiness 4. That means then that the island is safe for you to travel. Please, I ask you to follow these instructions for your safety and for your protection," she said.

Guam remains under Condition of Readiness level 1, indicating that damaging winds are still within 12 hours of the island. Condition of Readiness 4, Guam’s baseline state, indicates that damaging storm conditions are 72 hours out. Officials are advising that the community remain in reinforced concrete buildings until then.

Guerrero also said that she would assess the island’s devastation once it is safe to do so. The government has also issued a boil water advisory and advises that people stay out of the water due to hazardous surf and seas.

The abnormal rise of ocean waters known as storm surge is, according to the NOAA, one of the biggest threats to life and property during such storms. The National Weather Service in Guam had predicted storm surge up to 25 feet for Typhoon Mawar, but is now expected to be much lower than initially feared.

The NWS said Guam isn’t out of the woods yet.

“Rota and Guam, we are still within our typhoon warning, because even though we do not expect any more typhoon-force winds, we are still within that damaging wind radii, that we’re going to see those tropical storm-force winds although decreasing across Guam and Rota,” Aydlett said in Thursday morning update.

President Joe Biden declared a state of emergency for both Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands on Monday. The three U.S. military bases hosted by Guam had moved their planes and ships off-island before the storm touched down.

Because the storm passed a little farther north than forecasters expected — with the eye passing just over the coast of northern Guam, rather than through central Guam as predicted — the Northern Mariana Islands faced some extreme weather as well, with the southernmost island of Rota, just 56 miles from Guam, sharing some of Mawar’s wrath.

Now, Aydlett says, “The exterior of the windfield of tropical storm-force winds still overspreads a substantial portion of the Marianas. Notably even for Saipan and Tinian, we see these clouds that are gradually pushing right into Saipan, so that is going to result in some heavy showers.”

During its approach to Guam, the NWS downgraded Mawar from “super typhoon” status as fluctuations in the storm’s eye wall weakened it, but the storm seems now to be picking up steam again and is now considered a super typhoon with wind speeds over 150 miles per hour again. The super typhoon is now on a path toward the Philippines. If the storm retains strength and stays the course, the island nation and even Taiwan could sustain an impact.

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