Published August 20, 2012
Typhoons, the most intense tropical cyclones observed anywhere, form over open ocean of the Western Pacific. Most of these tropical cyclones are in their formative stages while near Guam.
Although these systems often influence Guam's weather, they rarely strike the island. The most intense typhoon to pass directly over Guam recently was Supertyphoon Pongsona, which struck Guam in December 2002. Pongsona caused millions of dollars in damage to homes, utilities and businesses.
Because Guam is in the middle of tropical ocean waters, it is no stranger to tropical depressions, tropical storms and typhoons. A tropical depression is a tropical low-pressure system with sustained winds usually greater than 29 mph, but less than 39 mph. A tropical storm is the same thing, except with sustained winds between 39 and 74 mph. Typhoons have sustained winds of 74 mph or more.
Especially intense typhoons, with sustained wind speeds near 150 mph or more, are "super typhoons." Each year, the Northwestern Pacific can expect about 30 such storms. Although 1998 and 1999 were relatively quiet, an average of three tropical storms and one typhoon pass within 180 miles of Guam each year. Generally, October and November are when the island has the highest risk of seeing a typhoon.
Although these storms can be very serious indeed, the key to surviving them is to plan for them well before they arrive. Always keep a well-packed typhoon locker with at least a weeks supply of water, food and plenty of flashlight batteries. Navy and Air Force housing are reinforced concrete, enabling them to withstand very high typhoon winds. Check storm shutters ahead of time to ensure they are working and functional. Once the storm starts, stay inside the house; it is the best shelter from the dangerous winds.
Additionally, stay tuned to the latest information on weather watches and warnings. Most people on Guam are used to these storms, so to them, they aren't a big deal. They know that smart planning, such as keeping a typhoon locker, having a safe place to stay, and paying attention to the latest on conditions of readiness and weather forecasts are the keys to surviving any typhoon.
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