Hurricane Rose crept toward Guam on Wednesday afternoon, bringing hurricane winds that snapped trees and left large parts of the Americas without power, authorities said.
The hurricane, with the strength of a Category 4 hurricane, is the strongest to approach a Pacific island in years and could intensify late Wednesday, forecasters warned. The Guam Power Authority said the island's energy grid only provides electricity to about 1,000 of its roughly 52,000 customers, and it was too dangerous for repair crews to go outside.
Mawar had not officially landed on Guam in the afternoon, and there is a chance the island could have avoided a direct hit, said Brandon Bukunt, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Guam. But the storm's western eye wall had moved to the island, he added, and residents were already feeling the winds of the hurricane's strength.
In a sign of the storm's strength, the radar unit that was transmitting storm images to Mr. Bukunt's office was damaged, and the largest tree outside the office fell in his driveway.
About 150,000 people living on Guam, an island nearly the size of Chicago located about 1,500 miles east of the Philippines, are used to tropical cyclones. The last major typhoon, Super Typhoon Pongsona, made landfall in 2002 with Category 4 hurricane strength and caused over $700 million in damage.
In recent years, damage and deaths from major storms have been minimized on Guam due to stronger building codes and advanced warnings. In most cases, “We're just grilling, chilling, adapting” when a hurricane hits, says Wayne Chargualaf, 45, who works for the local government housing authority.
But because it's been so long since Pongsona, “We have a whole generation that hasn't experienced this,” he added. “So little doubts started creeping into my mind. Are we really ready for this?”
The center of the hurricane was about 40 miles east-southeast of Guam at around 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday. said the Weather Service An update. The storm was moving northwest at about three miles per hour, and its impact is expected to peak in the afternoon.
Rose has weakened from Category 5 strength, but its maximum sustained winds are still pushing around 140 mph, on par with a Category 4 hurricane, Bukunt said. Its southern eyewall is still offshore, but has the potential to bring stronger winds to the island, along with heavy rains.
“Before we go off the radar, that's where the really bad weather is,” he said.
President Biden declared a state of emergency for Guam on Tuesday evening, enabling federal agencies to assist relief efforts. As of Wednesday, the island is on an emergency footing, with an evacuation order, a flood warning and suspension of commercial flights.
And at Andersen Air Force Base on Guam, all aircraft either left the island before the storm or were placed in hangars, the Air Force said in an email.
Tropical cyclones are called typhoons or hurricanes depending on where they originate. Typhoons, which tend to form from May to October, are tropical cyclones that develop in the northwestern Pacific and affect Asia. Studies say that climate change has increased the intensity of tropical cyclones, and their potential for destruction, as warmer oceans provide more energy to fuel them.
Mawar, a Malaysian name meaning “rose”, is the name of the second hurricane in the Western Pacific this season. First, Tropical Storm Sanvuweakened in less than two days.
Carlo Sgembelluri Pangelinan, 42, who sells container homes in a shop in Barrigada Heights, a hilly and affluent neighborhood near Guam's international airport, said he doubted the storm would be worse than anything he's ever experienced.
Even so, added Pak Pangelinan, he is worried about people who do not have adequate shelter, and animals without owners to care for them, including stray dogs.
The island's population majority Catholicand the Roman Catholic church in Guam said in a message to its congregation Wednesday that the fear and anxiety surrounding the island is understandable, partly because Super Typhoon Pongsona has left an “indelible impression” that can still be felt for more than 20 years. Later.
“There is good to be found in the midst of a storm,” the message said. “The kindness and concern of people that show up during such trials is one of them.”
John Yoon, Victoria Kim, McKenna Oxenden And Jin Yu Young reporting contribution.