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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Typhoon Mawar could hit Guam with the force of a Category 5 storm

Residents in Guam preparing on Monday for the arrival of Typhoon Mawar. The governor of the Pacific island warned that it could take a direct hit from the storm.

By Christine Hauser, Judson Jones and Mike Ives

Typhoon Mawar could hit Guam on Wednesday with the force of a Category 5 hurricane, forecasters warned, as local authorities ordered residents in coastal areas of the Pacific island to evacuate.

A typhoon warning was in effect for Guam, a U.S. territory, and Rota, a nearby island, the National Weather Service said. Guam has a population of more than 150,000 people, many of whom live in coastal communities.

Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero had ordered residents in the island’s low-lying coastal areas to evacuate by 6 p.m. local time Tuesday. Authorities advised all other Guam residents to remain indoors.

Mawar, which had been strengthening Tuesday, was upgraded to a Super Typhoon late in the afternoon, verging on a Category 5 hurricane with winds of 155 mph, the weather service said. The Super Typhoon classification is given to tropical cyclones with winds of 150 mph or higher.

If the storm makes landfall on Guam at the strength of a Category 5 hurricane, it would arrive with more force than Hurricane Ian, which was a Category 4 storm when it slammed into Florida in September, killing at least 114 people and leaving wreckage on a scale that was staggering even to Floridians who had survived and rebuilt after other powerful storms.

The eye of Mawar was about 85 miles southeast of Guam by 5 a.m. local time Wednesday, the weather service said. Mawar’s winds were expected to remain at between 150-160 mph through Thursday, it said.

Tropical storm-force winds, classified as 39 mph or more, were expected to arrive on the island Wednesday morning and then intensify.

Forecasters with the Joint Typhoon Warning Center, a service operated by the U.S. Navy, said it was “all but certain” that the system would remain at or near Super Typhoon intensity, with sustained surface-wind strength of 150 mph or above.

The intensifying typhoon was moving west-northwest at 5 mph and would likely pass “very near or directly over Guam” on Wednesday, bringing not only high winds but also life-threatening storm surges and 2 feet of rain to some areas, the weather service said.

The biggest impacts of the storm are going to begin Tuesday evening and peak in the overnight hours into Wednesday, said Brandon Bukunt, a meteorologist with the weather service in Guam.

As the storm approaches the islands, its winds are “going to pick up,” said Bukunt, and outer rain bands could bring heavy downpours, increasing the chances of flooding, including in Guam, which is home to Andersen Air Force Base.

Authorities said Tuesday that the base would close its gates at 10 p.m. and that several military facilities on the island were in a “condition of readiness” for the storm.

The difference between a typhoon and a hurricane is in name only, and based on geography. Typhoons are tropical cyclones that develop in the northwestern Pacific and affect Asia. Elsewhere, they are called hurricanes.

Typhoons can form year-round but are most common from May to October.

Mawar, a Malaysian name that means “rose,” is the second named storm in the western Pacific this season. The first, Tropical Storm Sanvu, weakened in less than two days.

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