Dolphin, a Typhoon is Coming to Guam
By C.J Urquico
December 8, 2002 was the last time a real typhoon landed on Guam. Super typhoon Pongsona hit with such a force that all of us on the island were knocked back to the stone age. We did not have power, water, both mobile and hard line phones were down, no Internet, and the fuel depot at the port exploded in the middle of the storm. We did not have gasoline for days.
Winds gusting up to 173mph flipped cars and shattered concrete power poles. When I went outside after the storm there were three tin roof sheets still nailed to its lumber frame in my front lawn twisted into an interesting sculpture.
Destruction was everywhere. Pongsona (pronounced Pong-son-wa) caused over $700 million in damages. The second costliest natural disaster in the United States after Hurricane Lili. It was fitting that North Korea actually got to name this typhoon, as years later they would be threatening a missile strike on Guam. They should name their rockets Pongosona. It looked a lot like we got nuked.
We were very lucky at my house, no one was hurt and we had food and water that would last us, if needed, weeks. There was only one fatality from the storm and it was indirect. A majority of houses on Guam are made entirely from concrete, including the roof. Even with that we had a waterfall gushing in the living room and the inside of the house was flooded. In our neighborhood there was no flooding outdoors, just inside our homes.
Preparing for Dolphin
It’s been 13 years of near misses. The previous storms in our region were deadly after moving away from the Marianas. Typhoon Dolphin is about to show us the real thing in the next 24 hours. The current forecast indicates that Typhoon Dolphin’s closest point of approach is tomorrow afternoon with winds around 110mph. Due to this news, the parking lot of Home Depot is packed more than I’ve ever seen it before and sales are beating records in the mainland.
I’ve filled up the car, bought unhealthy amounts of canned foods, with Spam of course and have enough drinking water for me and my two little ones, Ezra, 9 and Jia, 6 to last us a bit. I got them excited because Dolphin will be their first real typhoon. It even comes with a kid-friendly name! We have a helluva weekend ahead of us and we’ll make the most of it. Fun will be had with Typhoon Dolphin. I’ll post periodically on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook as long as I have Internet and battery juice.
All the devices are charged to 100% and the shutters go up later this afternoon. Not all of them of course, it’s been my ritual to keep a small window open to watch what I can of the storm as it passes. It’s violent and beautiful.
Maybe I’ll Periscope it.
We are ready.
More than just a Military Base
It never ceases to amaze me that when national media mentions Guam, they immediately followup with the military bases here. Just that.
Guam isn’t all just military bases, you know, though we do have the highest numbers of veterans. The island has a population of 170,000 people, around 12,000 of which are military servicemembers and their dependents. The number of tourists on the island is more than likely larger than the population of military personnel stationed on Guam. Except maybe when we have an aircraft carrier battle group visiting. Or a typhoon en route to drive tourists away.
The island of Guam is an amazing mini-America in the middle of the Pacific. Tourism is the number one industry. We get over 1.3 million tourists visiting per year to enjoy the balmy 85 degree temperature, beaches, food and duty-free shopping. Think Oahu without too much traffic.
The indigenous people of Guam, Chamorros are some of the nicest people you will ever meet. There are also a sizable population of Filipinos, FSM citizens, Koreans, Chinese and just about every ethnicity on earth. Wherever we came from, we are all Guamanians. We are all Americans.
Please stop addressing Guam as a military base in the middle of the Pacific. We are more than that. If you ever get the chance to come out and visit, do so. You’ll see.
Here’s to hoping the water keeps flowing, the power staying on, the Internet and phones keep talking and for all of the people in the Marianas to stay safe from the storm. See y‘all at the after party.