Typhoon Mawar crept toward Guam on Wednesday afternoon, bringing hurricane-force winds that snapped trees and left much of the American territory without power, authorities said.
The storm, which has the strength of a Category 4 hurricane, is the strongest to approach the Pacific island in years and could intensify Wednesday night, forecasters warned. The Guam Power Authority said the island’s energy grid was providing power to only about 1,000 of its roughly 52,000 customers, and that it was too dangerous for repair crews to go outside.
Mawar had not officially made landfall on Guam as of mid-afternoon, and it is possible that the island could be spared a direct hit, said Brandon Bukunt, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Guam. But the storm’s western eyewall has moved over the island, he added, and residents are already feeling the storm’s strong winds.
In a sign of the storm’s strength, it broke the radar unit that sent the image of the storm to Mr. Bukunt, and the biggest tree outside the office fell in its path.
The 150,000 or so people who live on Guam, an island about the size of Chicago located about 1,500 miles east of the Philippines, are used to tropical storms. The last big one, Super Typhoon Pongsona, came ashore in 2002 with the strength of a Category 4 storm and caused more than $700 million in damage.
In recent years, damage and deaths from major hurricanes have been minimized in Guam due to stronger building codes and advanced warnings. In most cases, “We’re just barbecuing, chilling, adapting” when a tropical storm hits, said Wayne Chargualaf, 45, who works for the local government’s housing authority.
But because it’s been so long since Pongsona, “We have a whole generation that hasn’t experienced this,” he added. “So a little doubt started to enter my mind. Are we really ready for this?”
The storm’s center was about 40 miles east-southeast of Guam at about 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, the Weather Service said in an update. The storm is moving northwest at about three miles per hour, and its impact is expected to increase in the early evening.
Mawar has weakened from Category 5 strength, but the maximum sustained winds are still pushing about 140 mph, equivalent to those of a Category 4 typhoon, Mr. Bukunt said. Its southern eyewall is still far from the coast, but has the potential to bring even stronger winds to the island, along with heavy rain.
“Before we went off the radar, that’s where all the bad weather was,” he said.
President Biden declared an emergency for Guam on Tuesday night, authorizing federal agencies to assist in relief efforts. By Wednesday, the island is firmly on an emergency footing, with evacuation orders, a flash flood warning and cessation of commercial aviation.
And at Andersen Air Force Base in Guam, all aircraft left the island ahead of the storm or were placed in hangars, the Air Force said in an email.
Tropical storms are called typhoons or typhoons depending on where they originate. The typhoons, which tend to form from May to October, are tropical storms that form in the northwest Pacific and affect Asia. Studies say that climate change has increased the strength of tropical cyclones, and the potential for destruction, because a warmer ocean provides more energy that fuels them.
Mawar, a Malaysian name meaning “rose,” is the second named storm in the Western Pacific this season. The first, Tropical Storm Sanvu, weakened in less than two days.
Carlo Sgembelluri Pangelinan, 42, who sells container homes at a store in Barrigada Heights, a hilly, affluent neighborhood near Guam’s international airport, said he doubts the typhoon will be worse than anything else. that he went through.
However, Mr. Pangelinan added, he is concerned about people who do not have adequate shelter, and animals who do not have owners to take care of them, including stray dogs.
The island’s population is predominantly Catholic, and Guam’s Roman Catholic church said in a message to its congregants Wednesday that the fear and anxiety sweeping the island is understandable, in part because Super Typhoon Pongsona left an “indelible impression ” which can still be done. felt more than 20 years ago.
“There is good to be found in the midst of storms,” the message said. “The kindness and care for people that emerges during such trials is one of them.”
John Yoon, Victoria Kim, McKenna Oxenden and Jin Yu Young contributed to the report.