We’re grateful that Supertyphoon Hagibis didn’t cause as much damage as it could have in the Marianas.
On Guam, we had some tropical storm winds and rain that blew down some smaller trees and caused some flooding in certain areas.
While this storm apparently wasn’t meant for Guam, we know that the prep work helps reduce the possibility of harm to people and damage to properties. It’s why Guam Homeland Security/Office of Civil Defense always promotes clearing properties of loose debris and securing canopies, along with other measures, as soon as possible. Additionally, the Department of Public Works and the island’s mayors also start clearing drains to help reduce the risk of flooding in the villages and village roads.
And considering how rapidly the storm intensified – going from a weak circulation to a supertyphoon in the span of three days – that early prep work would have made a huge difference if Hagibis had taken a different turn.
We also appreciate the governor’s call to Condition of Readiness 2 to ensure shelters are opened for those families who live in homes that, unfortunately, can’t withstand strong winds and heavy rain. COR 2 also triggers the opening of Guam Memorial Hospital for women with high-risk pregnancies or who are at the late stages of their pregnancy. Additionally, the Guam Southern and Northern Regional Centers are opened so individuals requiring urgent medical attention are able to get some help.
If there is one area we hope the administration and GHS/OCD take into consideration for future storms, it’s calling COR 2 earlier or at least announcing that COR 2 would be called – and with it the opening of shelters and GMH.
On Monday, COR 2 was declared at 6:30 p.m. and officials announced shelters would open at 7 p.m. At this point, the weather had already started deteriorating. It was raining hard, and the winds were picking up. Many of the people who need to use the storm shelters include those who have no vehicles, young children and limited access to information; they need more time to get the information and make their own preparations to bring their families to a safe place for the duration of a storm.
An announcement that GMH was open to pregnant women wasn’t made until 9:15 p.m. – saying that the hospital had opened to them since 8 p.m., and that the regional clinics would open at 9:30 p.m.
With the worst of the weather expected around midnight, the opening of GMH and the clinics also came out at a time when it's dark. Further, heavy rains not only reduced visibility on the road, it also made for slippery roads.
This time, we were lucky that the storm didn’t veer farther south. Next time, we may not be so lucky. We hope the administration learns from this storm and opens these life-saving facilities sooner next time.