Winds and rain began hitting Guam on Wednesday as a life-threatening typhoon approached, a storm potentially so severe that President Joe Biden signed an emergency declaration Tuesday to mobilize resources.
Super Typhoon Mawar is expected to be a “triple threat” of torrential rains, life-threatening storm surge and Category 4 hurricane-force winds, according to Guam’s Homeland Security department.
“This is a very serious situation with steadily deteriorating conditions,” the department said.
Forecasters said sustained winds of over 50 mph, and gusting over 70 mph, have been felt.
The storm track moved slightly north but is forecast to cross late Wednesday afternoon or early Wednesday evening local time Landon Aydlett, warning coordinator for the National Weather Service, said.
“Everyone’s going to be feeling this, and they’re going to be feeling this for a while,” Aydlett said in a livestream Wednesday afternoon. He urged people to stay inside.
It was about 40 miles east-southeast of Guam at 2 p.m. local time (midnight early Wednesday ET) the weather service said. Winds were measured at around 135 mph. The storm was moving slowly, at around 3 mph to the northwest.
Typhoon warnings were in place for Guam and Rota. Typhoon-force winds extended 50 miles from the storm’s center, and tropical-storm-force winds reached up to 140 miles from the center, the weather service said in an update at 1 p.m. local time.
Loss of power and access to water is likely to last days, if not weeks, after the storm passes. Flights were canceled from Tuesday through Wednesday, according to the island’s homeland security.
Mawar is expected to be the first “eye passage” on Guam since December 2002, the weather service said. Approximately 170,000 people live there.
Luis Zamora, 40, is an electrical engineer who frequently visits the island from California for his work with the U.S. military and is hunkering down at a hotel with his colleagues. He was scheduled to leave on Thursday, but received notification Tuesday from United Airlines that his flight was cancelled.
“Overnight, you can definitely see the difference in the wind,” Zamora said. “You can hear it a lot stronger … you can see the trees moving around.”
Originally from Florida, Zamora has prepared himself the same way he would for a hurricane: a full bathtub of water, charging his devices ahead of power loss, and stocking up on non-perishables. He also feels confident in the staff at his hotel, the Dusit Beach Resort, who have assured guests of their food stock and emergency plans.
“I think Guam is way ahead of, you know, storm preparedness,” Zamora said. “It’s just the outcome is something that you can’t really prepare for.”
Zamora and his colleagues are only a 10-minute drive from the airport, but it’s unclear how quickly they could return home after the storm passes.
“It’s just how much damage is it going to make and when is everything going to be able to be back up and running?”
Guam Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero signed an executive order mandating evacuations of low-lying areas and mobilizing the national guard to assist in getting people to shelters. In a letter to Biden, Guerrero warned that the typhoon is expected to cause “substantial destruction to our island.”
“I anticipate that this situation will be of such severity and magnitude that an effective response will be beyond the capability of the government of Guam and supplementary federal assistance will be necessary to save lives and to protect property, public health and safety and to mitigate the effects of this imminent catastrophe,” Guerrero said in the letter, which was posted to Instagram.
In an address on YouTube, Guerrero urged people to stay indoors and take necessary steps to prepare.
“I know it’s been quite some time since we’ve had a storm of this magnitude and it is frightening,” Guerrero said. “I ask you to remain calm, stay informed, and most importantly, be prepared.”
Janhvi Bhojwani , The Associated Press and Phil Helsel contributed.