Typhoon pelts Guam with winds, rain; residents take shelter

AP News
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Posted: May 15, 2015 2:40 PM
Typhoon pelts Guam with winds, rain; residents take shelter

HAGATNA, Guam (AP) — More than 1,100 people took refuge in shelters early Saturday as the center of a powerful Pacific typhoon glanced off Guam, hammering the U.S. territory with high winds, rain and huge waves.

The storm knocked out power, downed trees and canceled flights Friday as it lumbered through a channel between Guam and the tiny island of Rota.

Typhoon Dolphin packed maximum winds of 110 mph (177 kph) before its center started moving away from the tropical islands. The National Weather Service said gusts were expected to gradually decrease to "non-damaging" winds by sunrise.

One injury has resulted from the storm, and that person was taken to a Guam hospital, Department of Homeland Security spokeswoman Jenna Gaminde said. She had no additional information on the injury.

There also were reports of damaged power transformers, said Oyaol Ngirairikl with the Joint Information Center. Ngirairikl said more would be known about other damage from the storm later Saturday.

Weather service meteorologist Patrick Chen said earlier that the weather service lost radar, but satellite imagery indicated Typhoon Dolphin's center was moving away from the Marianas Islands, which include Guam.

He advised residents to stay indoors: "Don't venture outside because of down power lines or trees."

Guam is home to about 160,000 people. It is known for white beaches and historic World War II battle sites, and it depends heavily on tourism.

Residents began seriously preparing for the typhoon Thursday when Gov. Eddie Calvo ordered agencies to take special precautions. That set off longer lines at service stations and increased sales of bottled water.

Eight public schools served as emergency shelters. Three were at capacity early Saturday.

Twenty-four pregnant women checked into Guam Memorial Hospital as a precaution, according to Calvo's office.

Dayann Henry, 28, and 15 family members sought refuge in an emergency shelter at George Washington High School in central Guam.

"When they said the typhoon is going to be big, we went to the mayor and asked for help. The mayor brought us here," said Henry, who lives in a wood- and tin-framed house.

Charleen Betwell, 30, also checked in at George Washington with several family members.

"I've been through typhoons, but this is my first time in a shelter," she said. "I'm just enjoying looking at the kids play around. It's good they're not scared."

Some children taking shelter at the high school played basketball in the gym. At the Astumbo Elementary School shelter, people curled up with blankets and pillows on the floor.

Earlier in the day, Guam was getting some surf, with a beach on the eastern coast reporting 16-foot waves.

National Weather Service meteorologist Genny Miller said the agencies likely would maintain high-surf advisories for 24 hours after the typhoon passed.

Meanwhile, airlines canceled flights scheduled to arrive or depart the island, though Guam International Airport stayed open for stranded passengers. Gaminde said late Friday she did not know when flights would resume.

Authorities warned residents in low-lying areas to be on the lookout for flooding and move to higher ground if necessary.

Typhoons are the same as hurricanes and cyclones. Distinctive terms for the storms are used in different parts of the world.

Tropical weather frequently affects Guam, so much so U.S. military officers like to say it's in "Typhoon Alley." Two typhoons and one tropical storm have affected Guam in the past eight months, including Dolphin.

The island rarely gets direct hits from typhoons because its land area is so small. The last direct hit was in 2002, when a super typhoon, Pongsona, killed one person and caused about $250 million in damage.

There are two U.S. military bases in Guam, Andersen Air Force Base and Naval Base Guam. Both were closed Friday to everyone except for essential personnel.

Anderson reported maximum gusts of 106 mph (170 kph).

Guam and Rota, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) away, share a common heritage and native language. Rota has about 2,500 residents, and many buildings there are made of concrete.

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Associated Press writers Rachel D'Oro in Anchorage, Alaska, and Audrey McAvoy in Honolulu contributed to this report.