Dylan Taimanglo spent Tuesday morning with family members working to secure their home near the Humåtak River in preparation for the arrival of Supertyphoon Mawar. With the river just a short walk away, Taimanglo and his family were no strangers to flooding. Strong rains had often raised the water level of the river.
The Humåtak mayor widened the river sometime last year, and since then the water hasn't breached the riverbank, according to Taimanglo.
However, the incoming supertyphoon now had him concerned. Taimanglo recalled the highest that the floodwaters had ever reached was about 2 feet above the base of his home, which appeared to already be some feet above the river bank.
“We're just trying to get prepared for this typhoon. We don't know what to expect. I know it's coming pretty fast, so, just got to wait and see,” Taimanglo said.
Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero signed an executive order mandating the evacuation of residents in low-lying, flood-prone and coastal areas no later than 6 p.m., in anticipation of the supertyphoon's arrival.
By 1 p.m., Guam had been placed under Condition of Readiness 1, indicating destructive winds were possible within the next 12 hours.
Mawar was forecast to be a direct hit or near-miss for Guam, and expected to bring typhoon-force winds and torrential rain over a good portion of the island. Meteorologists warned that the forecast predicted significant flooding and coastal inundation.
As of Tuesday morning, Mawar had sustained winds of 125 mph, with gusts exceeding 140 mph, according to Landon Aydlett, warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
'Ordered to evacuate'
“All residents in low-lying, flood-prone and coastal areas, especially in the southern villages of Inalåhan, Ipan, Talo’fo’fo’, Malesso’, Hågat and (Humåtak), are ordered to evacuate and seek shelter in private residences or designated government shelters in higher elevation no later than 6 p.m.,” the governor's evacuation order stated Tuesday.
The order also authorized the Guam National Guard and mayors and their staff to assist in evacuating residents. Those needing transportation to a shelter were asked to call their village mayor’s office.
Inalåhan Mayor Anthony Chargualaf said some village residents asked if they would be arrested if they did not leave.
“I said, 'No, you're not going to be arrested, but you definitely will not be attended to when you're calling for a rescue when the storm is here,'” the mayor said, adding later that no one had shown resistance to the governor's order.
When The Guam Daily Post spoke to him, a little before 1:30 p.m., Chargualaf said some families were mobilizing out of their homes and into shelters, or getting last-minute items before they head to the shelters. About eight or nine names had registered for shelters by that time. Chargualaf anticipated at least 20 people would register. Some residents are choosing to stay with family members living on higher ground, he added.
Humåtak Mayor Johnny Quinata said the governor's order was sent out to the village community chat to inform residents. At the time he spoke to the Post, still a little before 1:30 p.m., Quinata said his office was expecting to meet a representative from the Guam National Guard, whom they were going to take to different houses in the village. At that time, nobody had registered for shelter, but people were leaving their houses, Quinata said.
Malesso′ Mayor Ernest Chargualaf announced the evacuation order to residents as soon as the order was issued but said he did not know if people would heed that order. He said his staff had already informed individuals whose homes won't be able to withstand typhoon winds that shelters would open at 8 a.m. Tuesday.
Motorists driving through the island would have seen similar scenes throughout the villages Tuesday morning.
People boarded up their windows, filled up on gas, wrapped their cars in a tarp or secured them in garages, bought from grocery stores and conducted various other preparations ahead of the supertyphoon. Some of the roadside areas down south appeared to have had the vegetation scraped away, clearing a path for water to flow out from culverts.
“The two major flood areas that we have that everyone pretty much knows is going to be the Barcinas culvert area down in Malesso′, and of course Polaris Point,” Department of Public Works Director Vince Arriola told the Post. “Especially with regard to our major roads, our routed roads. Those are the two priority areas that we want to make sure we keep up.”
Arriola said he did not believe roads would be so flooded as to be completely impassable, and would have at least one lane open and could still be utilized by emergency vehicles.
“We'll take that on a case-by-case basis, and, barring no dire emergencies, we'll see where this typhoon leads us,” Arriola said.
However, the director later added that his main concern involved major flooding that could occur when outflowing river waters meet an anticipated high tide.
“I understand we're going to have plus-two feet of high tide. So that's going to be really significant. If the high tide meets with the river water trying to get out, then we're going to have some major flood issues. And … we basically can't handle that,” Arriola said. “Everybody just needs to stay home and bunker down and stay safe.”
Arriola said that he and others “highly recommended” to the governor during a meeting Tuesday morning that she issue the evacuation order for coastal areas, especially down south.
“We understand that there should be a pretty high storm surge as part of this typhoon,” Arriola said.