Typhoon Mawar headed toward Guam early Wednesday as the strongest storm to hit the US territory in decades.
The storm, which strengthened rapidly in recent days, is posing a “triple threat” of devastation, including deadly winds equivalent to at least a Category 4 hurricane, extraordinary storm surge, and torrential rain, according to the National Weather Service office in Guam.
Typhoon Mawar landfall
Landon Aidlett, a warning coordination meteorologist from the weather service in Guam, described Mavor as “one that will be remembered for decades.” It is expected to strike the island – and possibly make a direct landfall – Wednesday afternoon
As of early Wednesday local time, the center of Mavar was 80 miles from Guam, and conditions were rapidly deteriorating as the storm moved through the outer band area and neared the storm’s core.
What happens to a typhoon once it makes landfall?
When a tropical cyclone makes landfall, the eye “closes”, surf gets less, and winds get less as the cyclone spreads out, losing energy. Damage inland may include flooding rains, gusty winds, and severe weather associated with the cyclone’s remnant thunderstorms.
Mavar’s maximum sustained winds on Wednesday were near 140 mph, the equivalent of a Category 4 hurricane, according to the Joint Typhoon Warning Center. This is down from the first 155 mph that would have given it super typhoon status at the time (sustained winds of at least 150 mph).
Forecasters warned that Mavar could reach the equivalent of a Category 5 hurricane — sustained winds of more than 157 mph — before landfall. Fluctuations in strength were still possible Wednesday morning, and the storm is expected to remain very intense as it moves west and northwest of Guam over the next several days.
The forward motion of the storm slowed to 6 mph Wednesday morning. Such slow movement of winds will have longer effects and higher amounts of precipitation.
The National Weather Service in Guam said, “Guam will see devastating impacts from Typhoon Mawar.”
If the typhoon makes landfall directly, the island will be battered by the storm’s strongest winds and highest storm surge.
Although Guam is located in the western Pacific Ocean – an area prone to the world’s strongest tropical cyclones – a direct hit by a hurricane this strength is exceedingly rare and has occurred only eight times in the past 75 years. The island is just 30 miles long, so the center of a hurricane would be like threading a tiny needle.
Mavar may be the most powerful hurricane to directly affect Guam since at least 1976 when Typhoon Pamela hit with sustained winds of 140 mph. If Mavar strikes with high sustained winds, it would be the strongest storm since Super Typhoon Karen, widely considered the worst storm to hit the island, which recorded sustained winds of 172 mph in 1962. Came with the winds.
Human-caused climate change is stacking the deck in favor of more intense storms like Typhoon Mawr. These systems are not only producing more rainfall and larger storms – they are also more likely to strengthen and intensify faster.
Mauer experienced extremely rapid intensification from Monday through Tuesday, with top wind speeds increasing to 50 mph in just 18 hours. Scientists have warned that the rapid intensification of tropical cyclones – such as typhoons and hurricanes – is likely to increase as ocean temperatures climb, setting the stage for cyclones to explode into deadly storms at devastating speeds.
Mavar potential damage
As winds approach Category 5 strength, significant damage is expected to buildings that are not reinforced with concrete, forecasters warned. Extensive roof damage is possible with flying projectiles propelled into the air by powerful winds.
Landslides will also become more likely as the ground becomes saturated and the soil in hilly areas becomes unstable.
The weather service in Guam warned, “Power and water may be unavailable for days and perhaps weeks after the storm passes” and that “most trees will be snapped or uprooted.” Mawr’s powerful winds can destroy up to 70% of the island’s foliage.
An exceptional storm surge of up to 25 feet would pose a significant risk to life and property on the island, particularly in the most vulnerable coastal locations near the eyewall.
According to the National Weather Service, tornado deaths have historically been the leading cause of hurricane-related deaths within the United States. A storm surge of this level could cause severe coastal erosion and “large boats could be torn from moorings,” according to the weather service.
Estimated Rainfall from Mawar
In addition to coastal flooding from the storm surge, flash flooding is possible as 10 to 15 inches of rain is expected from the storm, with locally higher amounts of up to 20 inches possible.
Currently, a flood watch is in place across the region as the intensity of rain will increase as the storm approaches. The weather service warned that “higher rainfall totals” are also possible if the storm slows its forward motion.
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