The National Weather Service and Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero couldn’t stress enough how credible a threat Supertyphoon Mawar presents for the island of Guam, whether it’s a “direct hit or near miss.”
As of 6 p.m., Mawar had advanced closer to Guam as the latest forecast showed continued intensification 155 miles south-southeast of the island with an eye 20 miles wide, traveling slowly at 5 mph. NWS said these developments in the storm aren't good news for the island.
“We were anticipating the possibility of this intensification and it really came together today, the organization. ... We have a pin hole eye and very well-defined eye wall circulating around that eye. And this whole mess is coming toward Guam tonight, arriving tomorrow,” NWS Chief Meteorologist Landon Aydlett told The Guam Daily Post.
The fact that Mawar had yet to speed up is concerning as Aydlett said that works against Guam.
“It’s all about the steering current and there’s really not much steering currents out there to get this thing moving and out of the area, and so that’s been working against us since the beginning and so that’s going to prolong the duration of this storm,” he said.
Supertyphoon Mawar was expected to build through Tuesday night and make landfall mid-day Wednesday, likely passing directly over Guam.
“As currently forecast, we could be looking at a 155-mph Category 4 Supertyphoon at passage tomorrow,” Aydlett told the Post on Tuesday. "Will that (worsen) to Category 5, (which) is 157 mph sustained winds and up? We are going to be shy of that, so that could still occur. Today has been a day of bad news; every forecast plot seems to outdo itself."
He said Mawar could end up being the second-biggest supertyphoon in Guam history.
Earlier in the day, Aydlett and Gov. Leon Guerrero sat side-by-side for the first time to provide the community with what was at the time the latest forecast of then-Typhoon Mawar’s path, intensity and potential impact as a "triple threat" Category 4 or even a supertyphoon on the island and its people, some of whom have never experienced a storm of this magnitude.
“I was there during Typhoon Karen, I was 12 years old. It was pretty scary because houses during that time were wooden houses with tin roofs and glass louvers,” the governor said during the update. "Very thin glass louvers, and our house was that way, and my uncle's house was a cement house and tin roof, and we evacuated during the height of the storm. I remember making a curve and a whole car was lifted. It was pretty scary.”
She added, "After the storm, I stood outside and the whole village was flat."
The governor stressed the importance of residents being storm-ready and seeking shelter while it was still safe to do so. She said Mawar is the first storm of this magnitude in 20 years, but Guam is "ready.”
With the south anticipated to be hit hard, Aydlett and the governor urged residents of low-lying coastal areas to heed the evacuation order and not wait, as the weather ahead will only get worse.
“What you’re seeing out here now is only the beginning,” Aydlett said. "Tomorrow is going to be pretty miserable, especially if you’re anywhere near the coast. So heed these evacuation orders very seriously and start making those changes to get to higher ground, because this is going to be a solid hit. It’s going to be a hard hit."
At the NWS it's all hands on deck tracking the storm around the clock, a job the governor paused to thank the NWS team for and asserted her confidence in the NWS.
“With your data, your information, your expertise and all the various people that are helping out, I trust the information being given to us. And so, please, I just urge our people to stay tuned, be informed and to stay home,” the governor said.
Leon Guerrero assured the community that “all eyes are on Guam,” at this moment. She said she has already spoken to Director Bob Fenton of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and announced that President Joe Biden has signed the request for a pre-landfall emergency.
“What that means is that they will be able to quickly send resources," the governor said. "There are about 20 FEMA individuals here on Guam already, on the ground. So after the storm and we start recovering will be able to have the necessary resource to quickly put our island back to normal again."
With every forecast update, the situation got bleaker for Guam.
“The typhoon-force winds extend outward not that far, about 25-30 miles, so those peak winds are tightly compacted to the center. So if it shifts 10 miles to the north or 10 miles to the south, a lot of people will not feel it, but whoever's facing that direct passage, that’s where the intensities will be the worst,” Aydlett said.
By 6 p.m., the storm’s course held steady, likely to hit central Guam the hardest.
“If we have a central Guam passage, all of Guam would feel typhoon-force winds, but central Guam will feel the strongest, most devastating conditions. As you go farther away from that center, the winds will rapidly subside,” Aydlett said. "And so if we have a southern Guam passage, northern Guam will have minimal typhoon conditions. But southern Guam will take a severe beating."
It's the same deal for a northern passage – but it's all dependent on where the storm tracks.
“Right now, we are looking at central Guam as a worst-case scenario for us,” he told the Post. “There's some indication that it will weaken initially right after passage, but then it could strengthen further. The current forecast track shows a peak intensity after passage of around 160 mph. So this is going to be a powerful storm – this is the first supertyphoon of 2023, and it’s going to be right on top of us."
Of the Mariana Islands, Guam will see the worst of the storm. Aydlett said Mawar's track forecasts the strongest winds to occur right over the island.
“But the severe tropical storm-force winds extend about Rota. Not typhoon-force, but still take a heavy day of weather with tropical storm-force conditions. Tropical storm-force winds extend upward to Tinian and Saipan,” Aydlett said.