HONOLULU (AP) — Guam’s governor urged residents to stay home and warned the island could take a direct hit from Typhoon Mawar as the storm strengthened on its way into U.S. Pacific territory.
Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero urged residents in a YouTube post to stay calm and prepare for Mawar, which the weather service said could hit the southern part of Guam at 10 a.m. local time on Wednesday.
“We could take a direct hit,” said Patrick Doll, chief meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Tiyan, Guam, told The Associated Press. “If we don’t take a direct hit, it will be very close.”
The center of the storm was 260 miles (418 kilometers) southeast of Guam, where it is already Tuesday and moving 7 mph (11 kph) toward Guam, Doll said.
It is expected to arrive as a “high-end” Category 3 storm, potentially reaching “low-end” Category 4, he said. Sustained winds were at 105 mph (169 kph), gusting to 124 mph (200 kph), he said.
The typhoon could cause “extensive damage,” he said.
The governor said she would essentially place Guam in lockdown at 1 p.m. Tuesday. “Unless you’re a first responder, you don’t leave your house,” Doll said.
Rain from the storm’s outer bands began to fall Tuesday morning, he said.
A storm surge of 4 to 6 feet (1.21 to 1.82 meters) above normal high tide was expected and could reach as high as 8 feet (2.4 meters). The surf was expected to increase sharply along the south and east reefs over the next day or two, with dangerous surf reaching 15 to 25 feet (4.5 to 7.6 meters) Tuesday afternoon through Wednesday, the weather service said. .
At the island’s supermarkets and hardware stores, people left Monday with shopping carts full of canned goods, cases of water and generators, the Pacific Daily News reported.
The Guam Department of Education prepared to open emergency shelters Tuesday, KUAM reported.
Rota, an island in the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, also received a typhoon warning, Doll said. Tinian and Saipan, in the northern Mariana Islands, were warned of tropical storms.
Some people in those areas are still in temporary shelters or tents after Category 5 super typhoon Yutu in 2018, Doll noted.
“Guam gets a Category 4 or 5 hit every five to seven years. Mother nature has been sparing us lately,” Doll said, adding that the last direct hit was in 2002. “So we’re way too late.”