As Typhoon Mawar aimed its fury at Guam, residents facing terrifying winds and crashing waves from the strongest typhoon to hit the US Pacific territory in decades had identical twin meteorologists to keep them informed — and provide the outside world with a glimpse of the chaos unfolding on the remote island. Landon Aydlett, the National Weather Service’s Guam warning coordination meteorologist, and his brother Brandon, science and operations officer, broadcasted daily Facebook Live updates that were watched by thousands.
The brothers drew the attention of local media, becoming a source of comfort for worried residents. They were able to provide the latest weather information while keeping people safe by providing visuals of their surroundings, Aydlett told NPR. They also answered questions about the weather and encouraged people to stay inside.
They also reminded people to stay away from downed trees and power lines, keep their pets indoors, and use sandbags to protect their homes. They warned that those not sheltering in reinforced concrete structures could be at serious risk of injury or death. (The AP notes that Guam’s building codes have required homes to be built of concrete since 2002.) The typhoon had brought heavy rains, strong winds, a life-threatening storm surge and knocked out power to many parts of the island.
On the island’s northern tip, where the eye of the storm passed over Wednesday evening, winds reached 140 mph. The typhoon was still strengthening, with its maximum sustained winds expected to remain at that level through Friday.
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It’s been hard to determine the scope of damage as rain, wind, and a storm surge continued Thursday. But videos posted to social media showed flipped pickup trucks, solar panels flying through the air, part of a hotel’s exterior wall crumbling to the ground and exposing rebar, and water swamping homes.
In a video message to his constituents, Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero urged residents to stay home even after the storm’s strongest winds and rains have ended. He warned that residents might think it’s safe to leave their homes and assume the worst is over when they see calm conditions, but he said that would be a mistake.
President Biden approved Tuesday’s emergency declaration, authorizing the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help with the response. FEMA Associate Administrator Anne Bink tells NPR that the agency has pre-staged 100 staff members, including medical professionals and power restoration experts, and has over a million liters of water and 700,000 meals ready to go at a distribution center on the island. The USS Nimitz carrier strike group is headed to Guam to support the recovery effort, and Defense Department officials say it’s too soon to know how much damage the typhoon has caused. The crews of two Coast Guard cutters, the USCGC Myrtle Hazard and the USCGC Oliver Henry, have been taken off their regular patrols to avoid the typhoon. A third cutter, the USCGC Frederick Hatch, is on a routine patrol far away from the affected area.