‘What used to be a jungle looks like toothpicks’ after Guam gets walloped by typhoon

Truck overturned by typhoon
An overturned truck lies in the street Thursday in Yigo, Guam, after Typhoon Mawar passed over the U.S. island territory.
(Chris Leavitt)

Guam’s governor gave the all-clear Thursday after Typhoon Mawar tore through the remote U.S. Pacific territory the night before, ripping off roofs, shredding trees and leaving much of the island of about 150,000 people without power and utilities.

There were minor injuries reported but no fatalities, according to the office of Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero. She declared the all-clear Thursday evening, returning the island to its typical condition of typhoon readiness as the National Weather Service lifted a typhoon watch.

She thanked the people of Guam for keeping themselves safe and protected during the storm.


“We now continue to focus our efforts on repairing infrastructure and restoring services to residents,” Leon Guerrero said in a statement. “After speaking with department leaders and seeing the incredible rapid response to the storm I am confident we will make significant [progress] towards restoration of services.”

Survey and work crews were assessing damage at U.S. military installations, which were limited to essential personnel, according to Joint Region Marianas.

The central and northern parts of the island received more than 2 feet of rain as the eyewall — the most destructive part of a tropical storm — passed. The island’s international airport flooded, and the swirling typhoon churned up a storm surge and waves that crashed through coastal reefs and flooded homes.

Extreme heat disproportionately affects low-income and nonwhite communities, as well as those who are pregnant, homeless or elderly, officials say.

“We are waking up to a rather disturbing scene out there across Guam. We’re looking out our door, and what used to be a jungle looks like toothpicks — it looks like a scene from the movie ‘Twister,’ with trees just thrashed apart,” said Landon Aydlett, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

“Most of Guam is dealing with a major mess that’s going to take weeks to clean up,” he added.

The strongest typhoon to hit the territory since 2002, Mawar briefly made landfall about 9 p.m. Wednesday as a Category 4 storm at Andersen Air Force Base on the northern tip of the island, weather service officials said.

The scope of the damage was difficult to ascertain early on, with power and internet failures making communication on the far-flung island difficult.

Leon Guerrero said in a video message late Thursday morning that roads were passable but residents should avoid driving and stay home because of strong winds.

Survivors of Hurricane Ian face a long emotional road to recover from one of the most damaging storms to hit the U.S. mainland.

“We have weathered the storm,” Leon Guerrero said, adding that “the worst has gone by.”

The Guam Power Authority said crews were working to restore power to critical and priority facilities such as a hospital, water wells and wastewater facilities. Guam Waterworks Authority was working to restore water service and had issued a notice advising customers to boil water.

The Antonio B. Won Pat International Airport Guam completed damage inspections, with recovery efforts underway.

In coordination with the FAA air traffic control tower in Agana, the airport has decided that it will accommodate humanitarian and cargo flights to Guam.

North Korea’s leader specifically threatened to attack Guam, a U.S. territory.

The storm is expected to move northwest for days over a large, empty expanse of ocean and enter the Philippine “area of responsibility” late Friday or early Saturday. Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said on Facebook that officials are preparing and that the storm could bring heavy rainfall and flooding.

The storm could threaten Taiwan next week. It strengthened, with 165-mph winds Thursday, and regained its status as a super typhoon, according to the weather service. Mawar, a Malaysian word that means “rose,” was forecast to maintain that intensity for the next two days.

By Thursday night, Mawar was centered 195 miles northwest of Guam and 210 miles west of Rota, Guam’s neighbor to the north, moving west-northwest at 8 mph.

Officials also declared all-clear on Rota, Saipan and Tinian on Thursday. Power was knocked out for all of Rota, the Commonwealth Utilities Corp. said late Wednesday. The island, part of the Northern Mariana Islands, has about 2,500 residents, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

As the typhoon crept over Guam, it sent solar panels flying and crumbled part of a hotel’s exterior wall to the ground, according to videos posted on social media.

At what felt like itspeak intensity, the winds screeched and howled like jets, and water swamped some homes.

Leah del Mundo spent the night with her family in their concrete home in Chalan Pago, in central Guam. She told the Associated Press that they tried to sleep but were awakened “by violent shaking of the typhoon shutters and the whistling strong winds.”

“It’s not our first rodeo,” she said via text message. “We’ve been through worse. But we brace ourselves for the cleanup, repairs, restoration afterwards.”

Winds peeled back the roof of Enrique Baza’s mother’s house in Yona, allowing water to damage everything inside.

The test launch is North Korea’s most significant in five years as it tries to pile more pressure on the Biden administration for sanctions relief.

“My mom’s house didn’t escape,” he said, adding that his mother stayed with him in his concrete home during the storm.

He drove around in a pickup truck looking for supplies to repair his mother’s roof, but most stores were without power and accepting cash only. Many wooden or tin homes he passed were badly beaten or collapsed.

“It’s kind of a shock,” he said.

In Tumon, on Guam’s northeastern shore, winds tore a granite countertop from a hotel’s outdoor bar and tossed it into the air. Guests scrambled to stack chairs to brace the doors, and windows buckled and creaked.

After President Trump threatened nuclear-armed North Korea with “fire and fury” — and after Kim Jong Un’s hermit kingdom replied with a bombastic warning aimed at a speck of U.S. territory in the vast western Pacific — many Americans got busy Googling “Guam.”

“It was like a freight train going on outside,” said Thomas Wooley, who recounted how wind and rain pushed through the aluminum shutters of his family’s concrete home overlooking Tumon Bay. When day broke, he found their outdoor china cabinet toppled and its contents shattered on the ground. A chainsaw-wielding relative helped clear downed branches.

“We’ve got tons of work to do,” Wooley said. “It’s going to take a few days to clean it up.”

Guam’s weather service office in Tiyan said it would shut down operations in the morning for workers to get home to families and assess damage at their homes. Counterparts in the Honolulu office took over their duties.

Guam is a crucial hub for U.S. forces in the Pacific, with about 6,800 service members assigned to the island, according to the Pentagon. Military officials evacuated personnel, dependents and employees, sent ships out to sea and moved aircraft off the island or secured them in protective hangars.

In a sign of how much help Guam might need, the Navy ordered the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier strike group to head to the island to assist in the recovery effort, according to a U.S. official.

The Nimitz, along with the USS Bunker Hill, a cruiser, and the USS Wayne E. Meyer, a destroyer, were south of Japan and expected to arrive in Guam in three or four days, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss ship movements not yet made public.