The strongest tropical cyclone to hit the US since Hurricane Ian made a devastating landfall onto Florida last year is about to strike: Typhoon Mawar is expected to make a direct impact to Guam on Wednesday afternoon local time, lashing the US territory with category 3 hurricane-force winds and heavy rains. In addition to being a US territory, Guam is also home to a significant military asset for the country: Andersen Air Force Base. Guam and the Air Force Base is under a Condition of Readiness – COR1 which means destructive winds are possible within the next 12 hours. The latest forecast track from the National Weather Service shows the eye of the typhoon making a direct hit on the island of Guam.
Tropical cyclones are called hurricanes east of the International Date Line; west of the International Date Line, they are called Typhoons. Due to its location on the west side of the International Date Line, Guam is a usually a day ahead of the U.S. mainland. Specifically, Guam is 14 hours ahead of East Coast Time; 7 pm Monday in New York is actually 9 am Tuesday in Guam. Impacts happening on Monday and Tuesday in Guam are happening on Tuesday and Wednesday on the U.S. mainland in terms of local times.
Due to the expected impacts of Typhoon Mawar, a Typhoon Warning is now in effect for Guam and Rota while a Tropical Storm Warning is now in effect for Saipan and Tinian where a Typhoon Watch is also in effect. A Flood Watch is in effect for Guam, Rota, Tinian and Saipan. A Typhoon Warning means damaging winds of 39 mph or more are expected within 24 hours, with typhoon force winds likely. A Tropical Storm Warning means damaging winds of 39 mph or more are expected within 24 hours. Typhoon Watch means damaging winds of 39 mph or more are possible within 48 hours, with typhoon force winds possible.
As of the latest advisory from the National Weather Service in Tiyan, Guam, Mawar was about 225 miles southeast of Guam with maximum sustained winds of 125 mph. The storm is forecast to continue to gain strength and impact Guam as a major hurricane with 140 mph winds, making it more severe than Ian was when it brought catastrophic impacts to the Fort Meyers area of Florida last hurricane season.
Numerous hazards are expected as Mawar arrives. As the storm approaches, typhoon force winds will arrive on Wednesday local time, with tropical storm force winds already impacting the island. Storm surge of 3 to 6 feet above high tide is expected as Mawar moves overhead on Wednesday. Dangerous surf of 15 to 25 feet is likely initially along south and east facing reefs. Hazardous surf is likely to spread to west facing reefs Thursday or Friday as Mawar moves into the Philippine Sea. Heavy rainfall is likely to develop; rainfall amounts of 9 to 15 inches are possible with locally heavier amounts.
“When making decisions, do not focus on the exact forecast track,” warns the National Weather Service. “Now is the time to rush to completion preparations for the protection of life and property. Evacuate if directed to do so by local officials…or if your home is vulnerable to high winds or flooding. For interests at ports…docks…and marinas…urgently complete prescribed preparations according to your emergency operations plan for tropical cyclones. If you live on a boat…make final preparations for securing your craft before leaving it. Small craft should remain in port and well secured.”
“For those under a warning, now is the time to rush to completion preparations for the protection of life and property. Stay calm and keep informed. Comply with any evacuation orders that are issued for your area. If your home is vulnerable to high winds, or you live in a surge zone or any location prone to flooding, evacuate to a designated shelter or ride out the storm in the sturdy home of family or friends outside of evacuation zones,” advises the National Weather Service.
When leaving to a shelter, the National Weather Service advises bringing essential items with you. A first aid kit, medicines and prescriptions, baby food and diapers, games and books, toiletries, a battery powered radio, a cell phone, flashlights with extra batteries, a blanket or sleeping bag for each person, personal identification, copies of key papers such as insurance policies, available cash and credit cards are all recommended.
Andersen Air Force Base and other U.S. military installations impacted by the storm are keeping their people informed of the developments. “Concurrently, Joint Region Marianas (JRM), Naval Base Guam (NBG), Andersen Air Force Base (AAFB), and Marine Corps Base Camp Blaz (MCBCB) will also be in Tropical Cyclone Condition of Readiness (TCCOR) 1 at 1 p.m., Tuesday, May 23, 2023. All Andersen gates will be closed at 1 p.m. on Tuesday, May 23. All Navy Base Guam gates will be closed at 10 p.m. on Tuesday, May 23. The time for gate closure is subject to change based on weather conditions. For installation-specific operations or questions, please consult the respective installation Facebook page or reach out to the Public Affairs Officer,” the Guam Homeland Security and Office of Civil Defense reported.
Considered to be the most important U.S. air base west of Hawaii, Andersen is one of the four Air Force Bomber Forward Operating Locations and the only base in the Western Pacific that can permanently service U.S. heavy strategic bombers, including B-1B, B-2, and B-52 bombers. Andersen is one of two critical bases in the Asia-Pacific region, the other being Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean. According to the Air Force, 8,000 joint service members, civilians, and contractors work and live on Andersen, including 2,500 dependents.