Typhoon Mawar Impacts Island of Guam, Strongest Storm to Hit U.S. Territory Since 2002

Typhoon Mawar impacted the Territory of Guam on May 24 local time. The Category 4 storm brought severe wind, torrential rain, and storm surge across the island. While there were no fatalities, the island was left with extensive damage. Authorities are currently working to restore essential utilities for Guam’s roughly 170,000 residents.

The last time a typhoon of similar strength impacted Guam was in 1962, when Typhoon Karen devastated the island, damaging or destroying 95% of homes. In the aftermath of that storm, the building code and construction techniques being used on the island were upgraded. Most buildings on the island are now concrete and steel structures. However, most other structures made of wood or tin were significantly damaged by Mawar. The typhoon brought particularly strong winds to the northern portion of the island, which was crossed by the eyewall of the storm and which received 24.5 inches of rain while experiencing sustained winds of as much as 140 mph.

In advance of Mawar, the island opened nearly 20 shelters and evacuated villages in low lying areas, with forecasters warning of life-threatening storm surge and coastal flooding. Although home to the Indigenous Chamorro people, the island is also the site of several large military installations where more than 6,800 military service members are stationed. The military had evacuated non-essential armed forces personnel and dependents in advance of the storm.

Although the storm rapidly intensified during its approach to the island, increasing its windspeed by 50 mph in just 18 hours – a meteorological phenomenon made more likely by rising ocean temperatures due to climate change – the storm entered into an eyewall replacement cycle shortly before landfall, which lessened the strength of the cyclone and caused the worst winds to graze only the northern tip of the island. Regardless, scenes from the island in the aftermath of the typhoon showed significant debris and damage to non-concrete structures. The Navy has ordered the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier strike group to head to the island to assist in recovery efforts. FEMA had pre-staged over 100 personnel on the island to assist with recovery as well. Generators and other humanitarian supplies are expected to arrive shortly as airport runways on the island begin to be cleared.