Guam feels ‘full strength’ of Typhoon Mawar as storm approaches
Stars and Stripes May 24, 2023
The population of Guam, military and civilians alike, hunkered down in homes or emergency shelters Wednesday afternoon as the eye of Typhoon Mawar loomed just off the island’s eastern coast.
At 4 p.m., the typhoon was just 30 miles from Guam moving northwest between the island and Rota with 138 mph sustained winds and gusts of 167 mph, according to the Joint Typhoon Warning Center.
The typhoon is projected to pass 7 miles northeast of Andersen Air Force Base, on the northern edge of Guam, between 6 and 8 p.m.
Heavy winds there knocked down trees by 9:30 a.m. Wednesday and portions of the base were without power by 2 p.m., several base residents told Stars and Stripes by Facebook Messenger.
“We’re feeling pretty fortunate to live in a concrete box,” said Kimberly Jones, referring to the reinforced concrete homes that constitute Andersen’s base housing.
Photos and videos of the storm’s impact submitted by members of the Guam Military Spouses Facebook group to Stars and Stripes showed fierce winds, heavy rain and fallen trees throughout the island, including at Andersen, Naval Base Guam, and elsewhere.
Staci Hutto, another Andersen resident, reported water leaking through the bottom of her front door.
Taylor Dubuisson, a suicide prevention coordinator for the Guam National Guard, said she was expecting the weather to worsen.
“The storm is really just now starting to pick up speed compared to what it’s been most of the day and will continue to worsen for the next few hours,” she said through Facebook around 4 p.m.
Mawar, downgraded Wednesday morning from “super typhoon” status, is the strongest storm to approach the island since Typhoon Pongsona passed the U.S. territory with gusts of 173 mph in December 2002.
Guam Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero at 3 p.m. offered words of comfort to her constituents, whom she’d ordered to evacuate low-lying areas and to shelter on higher ground Tuesday. About 170,500 people live on the island, at 210 square miles about the size of Chicago.
“Many of us right now are feeling the full strength of Typhoon Mawar, and although it is a frightening experience that hasn’t been felt for over two decades – we want you to know that we are here for you,” Leon Guerrero wrote Wednesday on Facebook. “Even as the typhoon makes its initial landfall, we have multiple agencies coordinating response efforts and relaying helpful information to those in need.”
The governor on Tuesday mobilized the Guam National Guard to assist with evacuation efforts; later that day, President Joe Biden approved an emergency declaration for the island, authorizing the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate disaster relief efforts.
The military bases likewise made multiple efforts to protect their assets. Ships from Naval Base Guam were sent to sea, while aircraft at Andersen were either sent away from the island or sheltered in hangars, spokespeople told Stars and Stripes on Tuesday.
At Marine Corps Camp Blaz, service members, civilians and their families were urged over the weekend to stockpile food and water and preparations were made to protect electronic equipment and offices, according to base spokeswoman Maj. Diann Rosenfeld.
“Our biggest concern is the safety of all our personnel and their families,” she told Stars and Stripes by email Wednesday. “For many, this is their first typhoon, and we wanted to ensure they had all the information and resources needed to safely ride out the storm.”
Blaz is expecting a “level of destruction” from the typhoon, but Rosenfeld said she was “optimistic we’ll come back stronger as a community.”
Check Stars and Stripes’ Pacific Storm Tracker for frequent updates on Mawar.