Extensive damage to Saipan, Tinian and Rota after deadly Super Typhoon “Yutu” makes landfall


At least one person has been killed in Saipan and many others injured after Category 5 Super Typhoon "Yutu" made landfall in the Northern Mariana Islands early Thursday (local time), October 25, 2018. The storm left extensive damage and set the scale for which future storms will be compared to.

"Saipan and Tinian will be unrecognizable. This is the worst-case scenario, this is why the building codes in the Marianas are so tough," said NWS meteorologist Brandon Aydlett, adding that the recovery will be slow.

Most of Saipan, from Dan Dan northward, was within a 16-km-wide (8 miles) ring of winds around the eyewall, where the most powerful winds blow, Aydlett said.

Yutu had maximum sustained winds of 290 km/h (180 mph) and gusts to 350 km/h (220 mph) as it moved over the islands between 14:00 and 17:00 UTC on October 24, 2018, (00:00 – 03:00 local time, October 25), making it Category 5 Super Typhoon and the worst storm ever to hit Saipan and Tinian.

However, Aydlett cautioned that those are satellite-based estimates. "We don’t have any direct measurements of the surface winds. The last direct measurement of surface winds seen at the Saipan Airport was a gust up to 150 km/h (90 mph)," Aydlett said.

"Then the leading edge of the eyewall-strong winds came through and took out the sensors."

At least one person was killed on the island and many others injured.

"Extensive damage to critical infrastructure on Saipan and Tinian has left the Commonwealth devastated with many families displaced," the Governor of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands said 13:00 UTC, October 25. 

The commonwealth’s delegate to US Congress, Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan said the territory will need significant help to recover. "There's a lot of damage and destruction. It's like a small war just passed through."

The entire Saipan sustained damage and is without power and phones. "It's going to take weeks probably to get electricity back to everybody," Sablan said. 

One of the residents told AP it will probably take months to restore power, recalling it took 4 months to restore electricity after Typhoon "Soudelor" in 2015.

FEMA's Todd Hoose said clearing debris from the Saipan airport is one of the main priorities in the wake of Yutu so that emergency supplies can be flown in.

"We have Coast Guard standing by and a number of other folks that can bring supplies. "

A Coast Guard representative confirmed that a C-130 stationed in Hawaii was due to arrive on Guam on Thursday evening (local time). This first flight, pre-staged to arrive following the storm, is carrying primarily relief personnel, salvage team, communication specialist and gear.

About 110 FEMA representatives are already on Saipan, Tinian and Rota.

Super Typhoon "Yutu" over Tinian and Saipan, Northern Mariana Islands at 15:20 UTC on October 24, 2018. Credit: JMA/Himawari-8, RAMMB, CIRA

Tinian Island mayor Joey Patrick San Nicolas told Reuters many of the homes have been destroyed. "Our critical infrastructure has been compromised, we currently have no power and water at this time and our ports are inaccessible."

The government of Guam has sent a message to the public to avoid calling Saipan and Tinian so phone lines won't get jammed. People are urged to keep in touch through text or social media.

Nadine De Leon Guerrero, the external affairs officer for the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Homeland Security, said hazardous weather conditions from the tail end of the typhoon prevented CNMI authorities from conducting a comprehensive survey on Thursday.

It was 07:50 local time (October 26) at Guam at the time of press (21:50 UTC, October 25).

The government of the Northern Marianas urged residents to buckle down for what's expected to be a very eventful typhoon season. "Whatever we can learn from the devastation of a Category 5 hitting the Northern Marianas can be applied for Guam as we look towards preparation for the future as well."

At 21:00 UTC, October 25, the typhoon was well west of the islands. It had maximum sustained winds of 240 km/h (150 mph) and was heading WNW at 16 km/h (10 mph).

Super Typhoon "Yutu" at 18:50 UTC on October 25, 2018. Credit: JMA/Himawari-8, RAMMB/CIRA

Its future track is still uncertain.

Featured image credit: kuamnews

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