Super Typhoon Mawar has barrelled into Guam as a powerful Category 4 storm, pummelling the US Pacific territory with high winds, heavy rain and a dangerous storm surge that swamped low-lying areas as residents hunkered down in homes and shelters.
The typhoon’s centre passed over the northern tip of Guam on Wednesday evening, the National Weather Service said. It is the strongest storm to hit the territory of more than 150,000 people in decades.
Meteorologists suspect the storm clipped the far northern part of the island but otherwise it was in the channel between Guam and its neighbour to the north, Rota, meteorologist Landon Aydlett said by telephone.
Peak winds at the weather service office in Guam reached 105mph but it later lost its wind sensors. The building was vibrating, with a “constant, low rumbling”, and doors and windows were shaking, he said.
“We have the peak conditions going on for a couple more hours. I think thrashing is the word I would use,” Mr Aydlett said. “There are trees everywhere at this point. Daylight tomorrow is really going to be a shock to a lot of people.”
Lightning had become an increasing threat as conditions continued to deteriorate into the evening, the weather service reported. An extreme wind warning and flash flood warning were in effect for northern Guam.
The storm’s centre hit Guam at around 9pm local time on Wednesday.
Guam lies west of the International Date Line and is ahead of the US mainland and Hawaii, which is 3,800 miles to the east. Manila, the Philippine capital, is 1,600 miles to the west.
Rota, an island in the US Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, was also under a typhoon warning.
Tinian and Saipan, in the Northern Marianas, were under tropical storm warnings. Some people in those areas are still in temporary shelters or tents after Category 5 Super Typhoon Yutu in 2018.
Mawar, a Malaysian word that means “rose”, is forecast to continue moving north to northwest and may threaten Taiwan next week.
The weather service warned of an extremely dangerous and life-threatening situation on Guam and said people should take cover and remain in shelter for the next few hours.
“This is going to be kind of a long night. It’s going to be scary because there’s no electricity unless you have a generator,” Brandon Aydlett — a science and operations officer for the weather service, and Landon Aydlett’s twin brother — said in a Facebook Live broadcast.
“Reassure your children. It’s going to be a little bit scary as we go later into the night. You can hear the sounds: the winds are howling, things are breaking. Just be together, talk to each other and things will slow down toward midnight and continuing into Thursday morning.”
He urged people to stay in shelters and encouraged them to try to get as much sleep as possible ahead of “a long day tomorrow as we start the recovery process”.
Many communities on the 212-square-mile island had lost power by the afternoon, and some to the south had lost water.
A flash flood warning was issued for the entire island as forecasters predicted as much as 25in of rain in addition to a life-threatening storm surge of 4-6ft.