HAGÅTÑA (The Guam Daily Post) — Mawar, the storm threatening the island, has been downgraded from a supertyphoon to a typhoon as of Wednesday morning, according to forecasters. But it is still a significant threat and on track to strike the island.
The typhoon was projected to reach sustained winds of 160 miles per hour at 4 a.m. Wednesday, but was moving closer to 145 miles per hour, according to a National Weather Service broadcast at 8:15 a.m.
"What kind of storms would this compare to?" asked Brandon Aydlett, NWS science and operations officer. "Probably 1976's Pamela (and) 2002's Pongsona. Yesterday, (we) we're looking at the worst-case scenario that we could see - something approaching 1962's Karen, which seems to be the worst on record to have struck Guam."
Mawar was located at 12.7 degrees north and 145.4 degrees east just after 8 a.m., or about 70 miles southeast of Guam, according to Landon Aydlett, chief meteorologist for NWS Guam. It could potentially intensify during its slow six miles per hour approach to the island, but will "hopefully" sustain the lower speed, Landon Aydlett said. The latest storm track sees Mawar shifting slightly southward, and typhoon-force winds will begin to appear around noon, with the storm "sitting right over the heart of southern Guam" around 4 p.m.
"Does that mean the rest of Guam is out of the woods? That is incorrect. All of Guam would be feeling typhoon-force conditions with the strongest conditions, particularly over southern Guam," he said.
Peak conditions will extend roughly from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. today, and decrease through the evening hours after 7 p.m., but typhoon-force winds will still be present as late as 10 p.m. for some parts of the island. Damaging winds will likely extend until sunrise on Thursday morning. Residents should not go outside until the government of Guam gives the all clear.
Damaging winds made travel unsafe as of 9 a.m., and residents who needed to seek shelter in a reinforced concrete structure, or away from rivers, creeks, streams and coastal areas needed to do so "immediately," Landon Aydlett said.
Mawar seems to be going through an "eye wall replacement cycle," Brandon Aydlett said, with the inner eye of the storm diminishing and the outer eye slowly contracting. That development was what led to the decision to drop the storm's intensity. It is still a Category 4 typhoon, though it was previously projected to reach Category 5.
A slight increase in intensity is possible over the next five to six hours.
The eye of the storm could pass over Guam at some point today, Brandon Aydlett noted, "If that is the case, you could see some breaks in the clouds. You could see a little peek of blue skies. That is not the end of the storm."
Mawar could max out at around 145 mile per hour sustained winds, with closer to 150 mile per hour winds near the eye wall and peak gusts up to 175 miles per hour.
Rainfall between 15 and 20 inches is expected, and with slow movement, heavier showers could be prolonged.
"Thursday, we are going to slowly come out of this situation. Remember, allow first responders, utilities (and) Public Works folks to clear the roads to get the island up and operational. Recovery will take time. We will wake up to a different scene Thursday morning."
Power at the Weather Service station in Tiyan did fluctuate on Wednesday morning. If functions fail, the Weather Service in Hawaii is ready to step in.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has more than 50 staff on Guam, according to a release from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued Wednesday morning. Staff and other federal partners are helping to support incident management, communications, debris removal, engineering, health and medical, military support, and more, if needed.
If the immediate needs of survivors impacted by the storm supersede local and territorial resource needs, FEMA can also provide commodities like meals, water, blankets, cots, tents, tarps, baby supplies and more, according to the release.