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Guam and its neighboring islands began bracing for a wet, windy Monday and Tuesday as the first storm of the northwest Pacific’s tropical cyclone season, Kong-rey, began churning rapidly west-northwest toward the Marianas Islands.

National Weather Service officials said the island chain could expect winds of up to 70 mph and rainfall of up to eight inches starting Monday evening. Guam Gov. Felix Camacho issued Tropical Cyclone Condition of Readiness 3 for the island at 2 p.m. Sunday, and U.S. Naval Forces Marianas and Andersen Air Force Base followed suit at 3 p.m.

The National Weather Service issued a Typhoon Warning at 8 p.m. Sunday for Guam, Rota, Tinian and Saipan.

Department of Defense Education Activity schools were to be closed Monday and Tuesday, according to a Sunday press release from Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Marianas.

Kong-rey spawned over the weekend well to the east of Chu’uk and just south of Pohn’pei and began tracking west-northwest Sunday at 13 mph. At 7 p.m. Guam time on Sunday, Kong-rey was 550 miles east-southeast of Guam, packing sustained 52 mph winds and 63 mph gusts at its center.

If it remains on its Joint Typhoon Warning Center track, Kong-rey is forecast to make a direct hit on Rota around 4 a.m. Tuesday. It’s expected to graze Andersen Air Force Base 37 miles to its north, with sustained winds of 86 mph and gusts of up to 104 mph at its center.

Winds of between 40 and 50 mph were expected to begin lashing Guam on Monday evening, with possible maximum winds of between 60 and 70 mph early Tuesday morning, according to meteorologist Genny Miller of the National Weather Service on Guam.

Miller said islands directly in Kong-rey’s path could expect between 6 and 8 inches of rain, and anything on the storm’s periphery, outside of 100 miles, could get between 4 and 6 inches.

Kong-rey then is forecast to rumble northwest of Guam before curving northeast and slowly dying out just past the northernmost Marianas Islands and well to the southeast of Iwo Jima in Japan.

The northwest Pacific region’s tropical cyclone season generally runs from June to December, but storms in early spring or late fall are not uncommon for Guam and its neighbors.

JTWC archives show the most destructive storms in Guam’s history to be super typhoons Paka (December 1997) and Pongsona (December 2002) and Typhoon Karen (November 1962), each occurring late in the calendar year. Super Typhoon Pamela leveled the island early in the season, in mid-May 1976.

On average, the northwest Pacific receives about 28 tropical cyclones per season. The JTWC recorded 26 tropical storms last year, 25 in 2005 and 32 in 2004.

Kong-rey is a Cambodian word with two meanings: Pretty girl in Khmer legend, or the name of a mountain.

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