A hurricane lashed Guam. What does federal relief look like for US territories?

This photo provided by the US Coast Guard shows a storm closing in on Tumon Bay in Guam on Tuesday.

Junior Grade Drew Lovullo / AP

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Junior Grade Drew Lovullo / AP

This photo provided by the US Coast Guard shows a storm closing in on Tumon Bay in Guam on Tuesday.

Junior Grade Drew Lovullo / AP

Typhoon Mawar slammed into Guam as a Category 4 storm on Wednesday local time, bringing strong winds, heavy rain and widespread power outages, which forecasters are calling strongest tropical cyclone to hit the American island territories in decades.

storm cut off northern Guam and is Move away from the island by Wednesday evening, according to the National Weather Service (NWS). Its maximum sustained winds are near 140 mph and are expected to increase as it slowly makes its way to the northwest.

“Mavar is forecast to gradually intensify over the next few days, possibly becoming a super typhoon over the Philippine Sea west of the Marianas,” nws says,

Forecasters warned of a “triple threat” with powerful winds, torrential rain and a “life-threatening storm surge” and said it could be the strongest storm to hit the island in 60 years.

Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero recalls experience Typhoon Karen – The most powerful tropical cyclone to hit Guam, with winds of 175 mph – in 1962.

“The whole island was really flattened by that typhoon, so for me that’s the scariest,” she said morning edition on Wednesday. “This one, as governor… what concerns me more is the safety and security of our people with these storms, because we know we can’t leave because we’ve been in the storm for about 12 hours ”

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It’s too dark and dangerous to start assessing the damage

Guam remains subject to flash floods and extreme wind WarningAnd it may take some time before the full extent of the damage is known.

Guerrero said his first damage assessment would be done as soon as the winds began to subside, but already knew of damage to homes and at least one rescue operation that took eight people to shelter.

“Going from a Category 4 to almost a super typhoon was scary enough, but our people are very resilient,” Guerrero said.

What is clear is that most of the island is in darkness. The Guam Power Authority said in a afternoon update Nearly all of its circuits were without power, and that the island-wide power system was serving only about 1,000 of its approximately 52,000 customers.

“I don’t know that anyone still has power,” says Dana Williams, who is covering the storm in Guam Pacific Daily News,

Williams told morning edition On Wednesday that island – which covers an area of ​​about 210 square miles – was witnessing heavy rain, coastal flooding, high seas, downed trees and internet outages.

He said forecasters were warning that anyone who did not take refuge in the reinforced concrete structure was at risk of serious injury or death. (Building codes have required that all homes be made of concrete since 2002. Associated Press notes.) Fortunately, Williams said, people living in Guam take these precautions seriously.

“It’s not like Florida, where you can drive 10 miles inland, or even Georgia,” she explained. “I mean, the flights stopped yesterday. We’re here and … we have to follow the instructions, and stay in our homes and go to shelters and stay away from water and stay off the streets . That’s why most people do it.”

In this picture taken from a satellite video live from the US National Weather Service Guam, Typhoon Mawar is seen getting closer to landfall on Wednesday.

S. National Weather Service Guam via AP

Federal help is already on the way

Residents had been preparing for days, the AP reports, filling gas tanks and gathering important documents.

Federal officials also acted swiftly – the US military dispatched ships from Guam as a precaution, while President Biden approved it. emergency declaration On Tuesday authorized the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to deal with the disaster.

FEMA Associate Administrator Anne Bink told NPR all things Considered On Tuesday the agency had already staged more than 100 staff members – including medical professionals and power restoration specialists – as well as relief supplies, with more than one million liters of water and 700,000 meals ready at a distribution center in Guam. .

Bink says it is deploying FEMA to help with damage assessment and recovery as quickly as possible. She says Guam’s relationship to the federal government—since it is a territory and not a state—does not factor into relief efforts, though its location in the remote Pacific does pose some logistical challenges.

“That’s why we have a distribution center there. And that’s why a regional administrator … meets with island leadership every year to make sure … to prepare for disasters and be resilient against them.” efforts to be shared,” she explains. “In fact, Guam has mostly solid infrastructure, including concrete power poles, and that could go a long way in the face of a hurricane of this magnitude.”

Guerrero says she is grateful for the help from Biden and FEMA, and agrees that nothing changes in Guam’s situation when it comes to relief. She says the agency’s response is comparable to other weather emergencies in the continental US, such as hurricanes.

“If anything, I think we get more support quickly because of our isolated region, because we don’t have the help of other states bringing other resources,” she adds.

This process will not start until sunrise at the earliest. forecasters ap and tell new York Times Those storm conditions are expected to persist through Thursday morning local time in Guam.

The Guerrero broadcast interview was produced by Shelby Hawkins and Adam Byrne, and edited by Jan Johnson.

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