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Guam prepares to take a hit from Typhoon Mawar as the storm heads into US Pacific territory


HONOLULU– Guam’s governor urged residents to stay home and warned the island could be directly hit by Typhoon Mawar as the storm strengthens on its way to US territory in the Pacific.

Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero urged residents in a YouTube post to stay calm and prepare for Mawar, which the weather service said could hit southern Guam on Wednesday at 10 a.m. local time. Guam is 20 hours ahead of Honolulu.

“We could take a direct hit,” 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 at 7 mph (11 km/h) toward Guam, Doll said.

It is expected to arrive as a “high-end” Category 3 storm, possibly reaching “low-end” Category 4, he said. Sustained winds were at 105 mph (169 km/h), gusting up to 124 mph (200 km/h), he said.

The typhoon could cause “significant damage”, he said.

The governor said she would put Guam essentially into lockdown beginning at 1 p.m. Tuesday. “Unless you’re a first responder, you’re not leaving your house,” Doll said.

Rain from the outer bands of the storm was beginning to fall Tuesday morning, he said.

A storm surge of 4-6 feet (1.21-1.82 meters) above normal high tide was expected and could reach up to 8 feet (2.4 meters). The surf was expected to strengthen strongly over the next two days along the south and east facing reefs with dangerous waves of 15 to 25 feet (4.5 to 7.6 meters) from Tuesday afternoon through Wednesday, the weather service said.

At grocery and hardware stores across the island on Monday, people were leaving with shopping carts full of canned goods, cases of water and generators, the Pacific Daily News reported.

Guam’s Department of Education was preparing to open emergency shelters on Tuesday, KUAM reported.

Rota, an island in the US Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, was also under a typhoon warning, Doll said. Tinian and Saipan in the northern Marianas were under tropical storm warnings.

Some people in these areas are still in temporary shelters or tents after the Category 5 Super Typhoon Yutu in 2018, Doll noted.

“Guam takes a Category 4 or 5 hit every five to seven years. Mother Nature has spared us lately,” Doll said, adding that the last direct hit was in 2002. “So we’re late.

Joanna Swanson

Joanna Swanson is Europe correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Brussels covering politics, culture, business, climate change, society, economies and inclusive tech. With specific focus in breaking news, she has covered some of the world's most significant stories.