Reporter covering climate change, energy and the environment.
Damage from Super Typhoon Yutu in Saipan, in northern Mariana Islands. (Jose Mafnas) Chris Mooney Reporter covering climate change, energy…
Typhoon Yutu’s 180 mph winds angry cars, knocked down hundreds of power stations and left an island thousand without a hospital and another without an airport. The buildings were reduced to random piles of tin and wood. If a construction was not made of concrete, then a resident said it was probably wiped out by the most powerful tropical cyclone to meet any part of the United States since 1935.
Yutu spent about seven hours siping Saipan’s small islands and Tinian, the most populous part of the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands, an American territory, early Thursday morning local time. The inhabitants of the islands north of Guam are used to typhoning but quickly confirmed that this was the worst they had seen.
Yutu’s huge eye shrouded much of Saipan and the whole of Tinian, which meant that the islands “lacked” as a local official told the Washington Post. Salvation and relief have begun, but officials say their efforts are hampered by dangerous weather and widespread destruction, which includes “extensive damage to critical infrastructure”, according to an update from the governor’s office on Thursday. A woman in Saipan, who took shelter in a deserted building that collapsed on her, died during the storm.
“We just went through one of the worst storms I’ve seen in all my experience of acute management,” local emergency chief executive Gerald J. Deleon Guerrero said in a statement.
In Thursday’s update, hundreds of subdued power poles and a “large number of downstream transformers and leaders” were mentioned on Saipan and Tinian. It said that the US Federal Emergency Management Agency had been called for “700 to 800 power poles, transformers and additional materials to start power recovery”, which must be done before the water service can be restored.
According to Figures released by the Weather Underground site, Yutu was bound with the fifth highest wind speed of any storm on record as it landed. Only a few storms, including 2013’s Super Typhoon Haiyan, who beat the Philippines, have been stronger, and even then not so much. For the United States, it’s just a storm – the 1935 Labor Day hurricane that hit the Florida Keys – believed to be more powerful.
The Northern Mariana Islands is the latest American territory that has been pummeled by a strong hurricane in the last two years. The American Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico suffered from unfortunate seizures during the 2017 hurricane season, and Guam was recently hit by Typhoon Mangkhut.
Overall, the escalating effects on US island territories in the Pacific and the Caribbean emphasize that the ocean is rising and storms worsened. Climate change is facing small islands some of the most extreme risks on earth. Many have organized themselves in the Alliance for small island states to push for strong measures to combat global warming. Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands, Guam and American Samoa are affiliated with the organization.
John J. Marra, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Regional Climate Change Director for the Pacific, said in an interview that in the short term, natural variation will play a greater role in determining where typhoon hits and how intense they are.
“It’s not this steady march. It’s really waves of change,” he said by phone, adding that the typhoon intensity in the Pacific region will vary. “But every time it will get worse because the baseline goes over time. The sea level is a bit higher, the sea temperature will get a little warmer.”
Nikolao Pula, head of the Interior Department’s Insular Affairs Office, said in a telephone conversation that Secretary Ryan Zinke The Pacific leaders heard about climate change during his latest tour of the region. Zinke noted that there are other major greenhouse gas emitters except the United States, but the department is focused on addressing the immediate needs of the territories.
“Hello, how can we help solve the problems we need to fix, and we will leave science to the researchers,” said Pula, describing the secretary’s approach.
Currently there are plenty of things that need to be fixed.
Jose Mafnas, resident of Saipan, told the Post in a telephone interview that he lost his thanks.
“We heard the tin fly out. It was removed,” said the 29-year-old lawyer, describing the moment Yutu said. “Water came in through the wooden roof, and then the entire ceiling coincided only down to the floor. My house and my neighbors are quite ruined. … There are only spark plugs everywhere. “
The Guam National Weather Service warned residents that the winds would be so strong that” most homes will cause serious damage with potential for complete roofing and wall collapse. Most industrial buildings will be destroyed. “
Still, Mafnas said he was” lost for word “when he first saw the chaos Yutu on his island.” I knew the damage would be important but came out in the morning, even with that knowledge, I was still amazed at how destructive it was. “
Frank Camacho, a photographer from Saipan who was in Guam, about 135 miles to the south, was in contact with family members and friends via WhatsApp and forwarded to the post what they experienced.
“Massive flood at home, blown roofs, storm jalousies flying out of concrete buildings, buildings are evener and the storm is still in 70-100 km / h,” Camacho said in an email that dawn broke Thursday on the islands. The islands are 14 hours before the east time.) “My sister just lost her entire house at Saipan. … [People] hid in their bathroom as the eye crossed the islands. “
The full extent of the damage is not known, Nadine Deleon Guerrero, an external affair with co mmonwealth’s home security office and emergency management, told the post in a telephone interview. Preliminary evaluations can not be carried out until the weather is improving, but Guerrero spoke on the basis of “windscreen evaluations,” said the destruction caused by Yutu is “five times worse” than that of Typhoon Soudelor who hit the islands in 2015. Soudelor was the strongest tropical cyclone in Pacific Typhoon 2015.
In general, the Northwest Pacific, where tropical cyclones are called typhones, not hurricanes, the most numerous and strongest storms on the planet.
“There is so much harm,” says Guerrero. “This is the worst storm I’ve ever seen.”
Nola Hix, another resident in Saipan, told the Post via WhatsApp that she lived through Soudelor and had “asked that we never experience [that] again”. Unfortunately, Yutu was Soudelor “x 20”, she wrote.
“We are all grateful that God is alive,” added Hix, noting that her brother’s and mother’s homes were destroyed. “It was very scary. I never heard wind and rain so, and it lasted a long time.”
At Tinian, conditions were as cruel.
“Tinian has been destroyed by Typhoon Yutu,” said Mayor Joey San Nicolas in a video on Facebook. “Many homes have been destroyed. Our critical infrastructure has been compromised. We currently have no power and water right now.”
San Nicolas said rescue operations were ongoing but access to several areas throughout the island remained very limited. “Tinian has been destroyed … but our spirits. It’s not, he says.” We are in the process of recovering from this typhoon, and we pray for your continued prayers. “
Emergency homes at Saipan and Tinian are full, Robert Schwalbach, a spokesman for Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (D), representative of the islands in Congress, told the Mail in an email. Saipan’s health center is in urgent need, and the one in Tinian, which has no patients “sustained great harm” said Schwalbach.
At Saipan, Guerrero said that the government’s main priority provides support to those who lost their homes. It is not yet clear how many people lack protection, but the number is likely in hundreds, she said. The plan is to work with local and federal authorities to distribute tents that can survive winds up to 60 mph, she said.