Guam appears safe from tropical storm
Tropical storm TingTing boogie-boarded up the Pacific this weekend, threatening to turn into a full-fledged typhoon as the work week began — and perhaps leaving at least some Guam residents reflecting that everything’s relative.
On the one hand, the small western Pacific island appeared well on its way to escaping the almost paralytic pummeling Super Typhoon Pongsona delivered two years ago. As of 4 p.m. Sunday, according to the National Weather Service, TingTing — in Hong Kong, a pet name for young girls — was 260 miles east-northeast of Guam, heading northwest at 13 mph.
“It’s supposed to become a typhoon at 9 a.m. Monday,” Lt. Arwen Consaul, public affairs officer, Commander, Naval Forces Marianas, said Sunday evening. “But it’s heading north. Our meteorologist says the eye is not going to hit Guam.”
Instead, it was taking aim at Saipan, Tinian and Agrihan, for which the weather service had issued, respectively, typhoon warnings and a watch.
Guam’s civilian government had ordered the island under Tropical Cyclone Condition of Readiness 3, the Pacific Daily News reported. But as of Sunday evening, Consaul said, both CNF Marianas and Andersen Air Force Base planned to remain at the less-threatening TCCOR 4, when destructive winds of 58 mph or greater are expected within 72 hours.
On the other hand, on the wetness scale, by Sunday Guam already had passed “soggy” and appeared well into “partially submerged.”
Massive flooding and torrential rain were expected to continue through Sunday evening, according to the newspaper. Flash flooding had been spotted throughout the island, the paper stated, with residents reporting that rain-triggered mudslides and flooding had made some roads impassible.
“Flooding is pretty bad,” Consaul said. “You have to stay in the center lane in some places and a lot of cars have been left by the sides of the roads. They’re predicting some areas will get 15 inches of rain.”
Several people had to be rescued by personal watercraft after their cars stalled in the flooded road next to a middle school, the Pacific Daily News reported.
CNF Marianas equipment appeared to have been secured safely, in accord with TCCOR 4 procedures, Consaul indicated. Andersen Air Force Base officials could not be reached for comment Sunday evening. However, Robert Brooks, civilian controller on watch for the U.S. Coast Guard, said no reports had reached his office of military or civilian craft endangered by the storm.
Consaul and Brooks said they were unaware of any injuries or deaths that had been reported.
The Pacific Daily News also reported, though, that power outages were logged in spots throughout the island, including parts of central Guam; that a Continental flight from Manila was diverted to Saipan; and that at least 22 people sought refuge at a middle school in Yigo, one of four emergency shelters the civilian government opened this weekend.
And the storm was churning Guam’s usually placid coast line — “The waves are huge,” Consaul said — prompting civilian and military authorities to warn residents to avoid both beach walks and surfboards until the seas have calmed again.
On Dec. 8, 2002, Super Typhoon Pongsona slammed into Guam, a U.S. territory some 4,000 miles southwest of Honolulu. Several hours of sustained winds up to 180 mph leveled thousands of homes and left the minuscule island with no electricity, potable water or phone service. In January 2003, the Pacific Daily News reported damages topped $73 million.
In contrast, meteoroligists said Sunday that TingTing’s maximum sustained winds were 60 mph.