Super Typhoon Yutu: Climate Change Causes Worst US Storm Damage Since 1935
October 29, 2018 Martin Petty / Reuters & Haidee V Eugenio and Doyle Rice, Pacific Daily News & USA Today
Residents of the Northern Mariana Islands are preparing for weeks without power after being hit by the most powerful typhoon in half-a-century. People are in desperate need of immediate housing, food and other assistance. Despite the damage the US president continues to deny the link between the burning of fossil fuels and climate change. Ominously, 7 of the 10 strongest hurricane and typhoon landfalls have occurred since 2006.
US Pacific Islands Brace for
Long Recovery after 'Catastrophic' Typhoon Martin Petty / Reuters
MANILA (October 25, 2018) - Authorities in the Northern Mariana Islands called for urgent supplies and equipment on Friday and were preparing for weeks without power after being hit by their most powerful typhoon in half a century, killing one woman and causing widespread destruction.
Super Typhoon Yutu, a category five storm, struck the US Western Pacific territory overnight on Wednesday, pulling down hundreds of electricity poles, damaging homes and commercial properties and the international airport on Saipan, located about 6,000 km (3,700 miles) west of Hawaii.
On the island of Tinian, which took a direct hit from Yutu, the mayor asked for tools, machetes and chainsaws to help clear debris and urged residents to be patient and conserve fuel, food and water as emergency supplies had yet to arrive.
"Please be calm, help is on its way," mayor Joey Patrick San Nicolas said in a Facebook Live video.
"Our stores are not opening, restaurants have been destroyed and we are left with what we have in our refrigerators in our homes. We are anxiously awaiting the arrival of emergency of military aircraft."
With winds of about 270 kph (168 mph), Yutu was the strongest typhoon seen in the archipelago of 52,000 people since 1968, according to governor Ralph Torres.
He said a long recovery period was ahead and he was pressing the central government for a major disaster to be declared and approved by US President Donald Trump, so the Marianas could receive federal disaster assistance.
Torres said a 44-year-old woman in Saipan had been killed while sheltering in an abandoned building that collapsed.
"This is an unfortunate incident," he said, adding that authorities were focusing on saving and preserving lives. "Our first responders remain vigilant and (are) working around the clock."
US health secretary, Alex Azar, declared a public health emergency for the islands on Thursday to boost access to medical care after what he described as a "catastrophic" storm.
Water pipes were damaged and all flights to Saipan's airport halted. Images on social media showed some buildings near the airport leveled by the storm, beneath them crushed vehicles and debris scattered over large areas.
Some 200-300 power poles had been toppled, and 400-500 were leaning. Authorities requested at least 700 replacements and transformers, and said restoring power to pump water was top priority.
Yutu was traveling at 20 kph on Friday, with winds of 180 kph and gusts 220 kph and headed toward the northern Philippines, where the state weather agency said it could make landfall early on Wednesday.
HAGATNA, Guam (October 25, 2018) -- With sustained winds of 178 mph as its eye passed directly over the tiny US island of Tinian early Thursday, Super Typhoon Yutu was the strongest storm on record to ever hit a US territory, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
It was also the second-strongest storm on record to ever hit any part of the United States, trailing only the 185-mph hurricane that hit the Florida Keys in 1935, according to the Weather Underground.
Tinian is one of the Northern Marinas Islands, a US commonwealth in the South Pacific Ocean with a population of 52,000 people. Saipan is the other major island in the commonwealth.
The storm has killed one person, a 44-year-old woman who had tried to take shelter in an abandoned building on Tinian that collapsed, the governor's office said.
Tinian suffered a direct hit, National Weather Service meteorologist Brandon Aydlett said. "This is the worst-case scenario. This is why the building codes in the Marianas are so tough," he said. "This is going to be the storm which sets the scale for which future storms are compared to."
"Tinian has been devastated by Typhoon Yutu," the city's mayor Joey P. San Nicolas said Thursday. "The homes, main roads have been destroyed. Our critical infrastructure has been compromised. We currently have no power and water. Our ports at this time are inaccessible and several points within the island are inaccessible."
The island's "power distribution system is completely destroyed," San Nicolas said.
Yutu's trail of destruction may not be over yet as it continues to trek west over the western Pacific Ocean: The monstrous storm still has winds of 161 mph, gusting to 195 mph, the Joint Typhoon Warning Center said. It could plow into Taiwan or the Philippines next week, the center said.
San Nicolas, a former attorney general for the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, said he sent out a request for commodities to be brought to Tinian, like drinking water and ready-to-eat meals.
With no running water, Tinian stores have not reopened. He said roads are being cleared of debris, and Tinian's airport runway is now usable.
Typhoons form in the western Pacific Ocean and are the same type of storm as a hurricane. A "super typhoon" is equivalent to a Category 4 or 5 hurricane.
President Donald Trump issued an emergency disaster declaration on Wednesday for Saipan and Tinian, along with the rest of the Northern Marianas, in anticipation of the typhoon. The commonwealth is 14 hours ahead of Eastern time.
Yutu, which intensified from a tropical storm to a super typhoon in only 30 hours, is tied as the fifth-strongest landfalling storm ever recorded globally, the Weather Underground reported. Ominously, 7 of the 10 strongest landfalls have occurred since 2006.
The storm has also tied Super Typhoon Mangkhut as the strongest storm on Earth this year, NASA said.
On Saipan, Rosalyn Ajoste remembers hearing loud ripping noises and screeching around 1:30 a.m., before her roof and windows blew off, causing water to flood her concrete-and-wood house in the village of Susupe. "It was terrifying and dangerous," she said.
Power could be out on Saipan for months.
In a statement, the governor of the Northern Marianas Islands, Ralph Deleon Guerrero Torres said the strong wind and rain tested the islands' spirits.
"Already, we know friends and family who have experienced the worst of these conditions," he said. "My heart goes out to all who call the (Northern Marianas Islands) home. But what we suffer through together, we will overcome together."
Three years ago, Typhoon Soudelor slammed Saipan and Tinian. Yutu, a Category 5 super typhoon, was more intense than Soudelor.
"It's one of the most powerful typhoons I've seen in my life," former Gov. Juan N. Babauta said Thursday morning. "There's widespread destruction of property, from homes to cars. There's also destruction of utilities. Power poles were knocked down, blocking main and secondary roads."
"People are still in a state of shock," Babauta said. "People are in desperate need of immediate housing, food and other assistance. We heard reports of two babies stuck in a house needing to be rescued, but responders couldn't immediately get to them, and people with health conditions needing oxygen but nobody to give that to them right away. We hope they got the help they needed."
Rep. Ed Propst, a member of the commonwealth's House of Representatives, said his family home's storm boards flew away, their windows broke, and their table and chairs flew.
He said his house flooded and the bedroom door ripped off its hinges. They all relocated into one bedroom, he said.
"Never experienced any typhoon of this magnitude in my 45 years living here," Propst said.
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