pink typhoonOuter bands were lashing Guam Wednesday before a landfall is expected in the late afternoon or early evening that could devastate the U.S. territory with deadly winds, treacherous storm surges and heavy rains.
Mawar’s core is expected to come very close to Guam, and likely make landfall, around 6 p.m. local time Wednesday (4 a.m. ET), the National Weather Service in Guam said.
The typhoon could be the strongest storm to hit the Pacific island in decades.
At 1 p.m. local time, the center of the storm was 45 miles from Guam and its maximum sustained winds were 140 mph, the equivalent of a category 4 Atlantic hurricaneaccording to the National Metereological Service.
The weather service issued a typhoon warning for the island by Wednesday, and flash flood and coastal flood advisories through Thursday morning.
In anticipation of a severe storm surge and potentially catastrophic coastal flooding, Guam Governor Lou Leon Guerrero issued a executive order on Tuesday ordering the evacuation of the low-lying coastal areas.
“When sea levels rise, residents will have just minutes to evacuate and respond. Therefore, we must prepare now and anticipate the worst,” the governor’s office said in a statement.
Mawar threatens “torrential rains that can trigger landslides and flash floods, catastrophic winds and life-threatening storm surges,” the weather service saying Wednesday morning.
Mawar could be the strongest storm to directly hit Guam, home to about 150,000 peopleas well as several US military facilities – since at least 1976, when Typhoon Pamela struck with sustained winds of 140 mph.
If Mawar’s sustained winds are above 140mph, it would be the strongest since Super Typhoon Karen, widely regarded as the worst storm to ever hit the island, which struck in 1962 with sustained winds of 172mph.
Although Guam is located in the western Pacific Ocean, an area prone to the world’s strongest tropical cyclones, it is extremely rare for the island to be directly hit by a storm of this strength. Only eight such storms have passed over it in the past 75 years, as hitting the roughly 30-mile-wide island in the middle of the sprawling Pacific Ocean is like threading a small needle.
Mawar’s slow pace of progress (around 6 mph Wednesday morning) would exacerbate wind impacts and bring a greater amount of rain to the island than a faster moving storm.
A storm surge of up to 25 feet above normal high tide is possible, the weather service saying. That would be life-threatening and pose a significant risk to vulnerable coastal areas and likely cause severe coastal erosion. The weather service warned that even large ships could be torn from their moorings.
Storm surge deaths are historically the leading cause of hurricane-related deaths in the United States, according to the weather service.
The storm could bring 15 to 20 inches of rain with even higher local amounts possible, the weather service saying. The downpour will likely trigger landslides, overflow rivers and streams, and lead to flooding in areas that don’t normally see such events.
President Joe Biden approved a declaration of emergency for the island on Tuesday, and FEMA Announced has more than 50 emergency relief personnel and dozens of other federal partners ready to provide emergency assistance on the ground.
The storm is “one that will be remembered for decades,” said Landon Aydlett, warning coordinator meteorologist for the weather service on Guam.
Authorities warned that the storm will bring devastating impacts to the island’s residents, infrastructure and landscape.
Extensive roof and structural damage is possible from high winds, especially in buildings that are not reinforced with concrete.
Junior Grade Drew Lovullo/AP
A view of Guam’s Noverlook Tumon Bay on Tuesday as Typhoon Mawar approached.
“Power and water may not be available for days and perhaps weeks after the storm passes” and “most trees will be snapped or uprooted,” the local weather service warned.
Guam Power Authority crews had been responding to power outages and fluctuations on the island overnight Tuesday and into Wednesday, but increasingly dangerous conditions made it unsafe for crews to make repairs. said the utility company in a pitch.
“The GPA team is prepared to immediately begin restoration as soon as winds subside to safe levels,” the statement read.
Between 50 and 70 percent of Guam’s vegetation could experience defoliation, the unnatural removal of much of a plant’s leaves and foliage, the weather service said.
Human-caused climate change is contributing to an upward trend in intense storms like Typhoon Mawar. These systems not only generate more rain and larger storm surges, but they are also more likely to be stronger and intensify faster. CNN has reported.
Mawar intensified rapidly from Monday to Tuesday, with top winds picking up 50mph in just 18 hours. Scientists have warned that the rapid intensification of tropical cyclones, such as typhoons and hurricanes, is more likely as ocean temperatures rise and lay the groundwork for cyclones to explode at breakneck rates and become deadly storms.