Typhoon Mawar, a monster Category 4 storm, was set to barrel into Guam on Wednesday as weather officials warned the island should prepare for a “direct hit.”
Authorities were urging residents of the U.S. island territory to move to higher ground and seek space in emergency shelters if there was any concern about the stability of their homes. The island’s governor, Lou Leon Guerrero, ordered those in flood-prone areas along the coast to evacuate Tuesday night.
“Current forecasts are not favorable to our island,” she said in an address Tuesday night. “We are in the crosshairs of Typhoon Mawar.”
By Wednesday afternoon, Mawar had maximum sustained wind speeds of 140 mph and was expected to maintain that intensity through the night as it shuffled toward the island, according to the National Weather Service. The typhoon is expected to be the biggest storm to hit Guam in two decades, and officials warned power or water service could be cut off to some areas for days or weeks.
“If you doubt your safety, please get to a shelter immediately,” the agency said early Wednesday, saying the island would take a “significant hit” from fierce winds and storm surges. “Conditions will rapidly begin to deteriorate.”
President Joe Biden approved an emergency declaration that will help marshal resources for the island. Leon Guerrero wrote to the White House as Mawar approached, saying the emergency would help mitigate the effects of “this imminent catastrophe,” saying it was “especially crucial given our distance from the continental U.S.,” The Associated Press reported.
Guam has a population of about 170,000 and is home to three U.S. military bases and about 6,400 troops. The military moved all ships out to sea as a precaution, and personnel on the island were sheltering in place, the Navy said.
The New York Times reported the territory has enacted stronger building codes and warning systems in recent years to minimize injuries and damages.
Typhoons and hurricanes are the same types of storms: The term typhoon is used for storms over the northwestern Pacific Ocean that affect Asia.