Super Typhoon Yutu hits Northern Marianas with 180 mph winds

Super Typhoon Yutu was crossing over the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands producing damaging winds, flooding and high surf.

Maximum sustained winds of 180 mph (290 kph) were recorded around the eye of the storm, which passed over Tinian and Saipan early Thursday local time, the National Weather Service said.

“Gonna be quite a scene when the sun comes up,” Saipan resident Glen Hunter wrote to The Associated Press in a Facebook message as Yutu was passing. “My concrete walls were literally shaking.”

It’s worse than previous typhoons, he said in a Facebook post: “Insane amount of natural force. Like nothing I’ve ever seen in my life.”

On Wednesday night, the National Weather Service in Guam issued dire warnings of possible destruction of homes and others buildings. “Collapse of some residential structures will put lives at risk,” the update said. “Airborne debris will cause extensive damage.”

The update warned of falling glass from blown-out windows, electricity and water outages for days or weeks after the storm passes and fallen trees isolating residents.

Meteorologist Matthew Foster in Honolulu said Yutu is moving quickly enough that the main concern will be the strong winds, not huge amounts of rain that have been associated with other recent hurricanes.

“It’s a very powerful storm,” Foster said. “It’s going to be more of a wind damage threat versus rain.”

A super typhoon would be the equivalent of a category 4 or 5 hurricane.

The Northern Marianas are about 3,800 miles (6,115 kilometers) west of Hawaii, and have a population of about 55,000 people.

Waves of 25 to 40 feet (6 to 12 meters) are expected around the eye of the storm and flooding is likely, forecasters said.

A typhoon warning was in effect for Saipan, Tinian and Rota and a tropical storm warning was in place for Guam and other southern islands.

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