Tag Archives: typhoons

Guam, Sweet, Guam

Continued from my earlier post Welcome Home:  Guam 2002 (part 2).  These were e-mails to the family back in the States.

“12/12/02:  Hi, I just wanted to let you all know that we just survived a super typhoon here in Guam.  I know that Guam is not national news, so I thought I’d send out this quick e-mail.  Because we are out in the middle of the Pacific, the recovery period could take a long time.  This is supposed to have been the worst typhoon in a really long time.  We have no electricity and may not for 1 to 2 months.  But I think more things are up here at G8r’s office because they have military lines.  We have low water pressure and it may be contaminated, so we are drinking bottled water.  G8r and I sat at the gas station for a total of 8 1/2 hours to get 15 gallons of gas for our generator which may not last long.  We were the 5th to the last in line to get gas, and now the stations are all closed on the island to anyone except emergency vehicles.  We are not sure about the phone lines.  We keep hearing that it could be 2 years without phones (does that sound insane, or what?!), but then I just heard they may be back up.  So…Santa may also be late this year at our house.  We had some big presents in mind, so we were waiting a bit before getting those.  I wanted to send out an e-mail to you all if you don’t hear from us in a while.  I have boxes all ready to send out for Christmas, but there is not mail service right now, so they may be a bit.  Well, I should get off G8rs’computer now so he can get back to work.  I really miss you guys (and electricity right now).  But we are actually not doing too badly right now.  It’s one big camping trip – woo hoo!  Love you all! ~SR”

We ended up being without electricity for about 2 weeks, so it wasn’t too awful.  The military had strong back-up generators, so I went to my husband’s office a couple of times to check e-mail on his work computer.  We had a window air conditioning unit that we installed in the master bedroom, and the 5 of us slept in there a lot of nights.  The kids were very excited because Christmas break started early and ended up lasting a month. 

“12/31/02:  Well, we are on the count-down here.  Just a few more hours and it will be 2003.  I hope 2002 was good to each of you.  We had a new girl cousin join us early in the year.  I don’t think Lulu will ever forgive me for not trying for another girl to give her a little sister, but now she has A!  I got my dream of living in Coronado, California for a majority of the year. I also got to see my mom for the summer; that was such a wonderful, special treat!  Then in October we headed to this tropical island in the Pacific.  Little did we know what surprises this tiny place had in store for us.  But you know, I think it made all 5 of us appreciate things a little more too.  And we found we can do without all of the conveniences (well, maybe for just a little while) without going too wacky.  I am extremely grateful that we have each of you in our lives.  It would be so much nicer if we could just live a bit closer together.  Well, I guess that is a little bit our fault.  It’s been great seeing the world with the Navy, but we’ll be ready to settle down in a few years when G8r retires.  Travelling is wonderful, but it’s always great to go home.  I wanted to tell you I finally got to the post office today with your Christmas packages.  Just be on the lookout for them in the next couple of weeks.  I hope 2003 is good to each of you.  Thanks for all your thoughts and prayers for us – I can always feel them.  Love, SR”


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Welcome Home: Guam 2002

We arrived in Guam in October of 2002 after spending a glorious year in one of  my favorite cities in the US, Coronado, CA.  It is a beautiful city with beautiful weather and wonderful people.  We rented in a neighborhood with million dollar homes facing a golf course and lived paycheck to paycheck to do it.  At least it was only a year!  Or, too bad it was only a year!

I remember stepping outside the airport in Guam for the first time and thinking, “I am in  H * E * double hockey sticks!”  The humidity had to have been well over 100%, and we could hardly breathe because the air was so thick.  But eventually my Florida body got used to the heat and humidity, and we settled into our life on the little Pacific island.  And then December 8, 2002 came along.

“HAGATNA, Guam (AP)–Typhoon Pongsona slammed into Guam on Sunday with intense rain and winds gusting to at least 117 mph, forcing thousands of residents to seek safe shelter.  Six men were reported missing after a gasoline tank at Apra Harbor exploded during the storm, Civil Defense officials said.  Efforts to reach the scene were hampered by storm debris.  Gov. Carl Gutierrez declared a state of emergency and activated the Guam National Guard to help with disaster response and recovery efforts.  The Civil Defense Command Center received reports of downed utility poles, tree limbs and flying debris.  At least one home was believed destroyed, but there were no initial reports of serious injuries.  By noon, about 2,271 people were staying in shelters, said Vince Leon Guerrero, Department of Education response activity coordinator.  The maximum wind speed of 117 mph was clocked before the National Weather Service’s wind sensor failed, along with its radar.  With no radar, the NWS had to use satellite imagery coming in every hour to locate the eye of the storm.  With winds at the center of storm estimated at 150 mph, the storm gained ‘supertyphoon’ status.  As of 5 p.m. (2 a.m. EST), the storm was 35 miles east-northeast of Guam, moving northwest at 12 mph, officials said.  ‘We’re still in the eye wall,’ NWS forecaster Sarah Prior said.  ‘We don’t know exactly how long, but maybe in the next three hours we should be out of the eye wall and the winds should begin to taper off.’  She said typhoon-force winds of 75 mph were expected until early Monday, ‘but it should be decreasing.’  Earlier forecasts predicted the 30- to 35-mile wide eye of the storm would go directly over the island.  After passing Guam, the storm was expected to skirt neighboring Rota, one of the Northern Mariana Islands, forecasters said.  Guam is a U.S. territory located west of the international date line, about 3,700 miles southwest of Hawaii.  As the storm approached, Guam Civil Defense officials urged residents to seek shelter in designated schools.  Celina Quidachay and her family, who recently finished rebuilding their home destroyed July 5 by Typhoon Chataan, sought refuge at Astumbo Elementary School in Dededo.  ‘It’s a lot to handle,’ Quidachay said.  ‘The worst part is waiting to find out, to see what the kids and I still have.’  More than 400 people filled the school, forcing late arrivals to seek shelter elsewhere.  Some residents checked into the Hilton Guam Resort & Spa, which started the day at 70 percent occupancy.  Manfred Pieper, the hotel’s general manager, said he expected it to be full by mid-afternoon.  Carlos Camacho of Talofofo moved into the hotel with many family members, including his wife, who is eight months pregnant.  He said he chose to evacuate to the Hilton because the hotel is close to Guam Memorial Hospital.  Meanwhile, long lines formed at gas stations to fill tanks and cans for electrical generators.  At the S&L Mart, residents stocked up on necessities.  ‘They come in here for junk food,’ said Giovanna Leon Guerrero, whose family runs the store in Inarajan.  ‘They get candles and batteries, too.  And ice, water and beer.’  Pongsona passed north of Chuuk state in the Federated States of Micronesia on Saturday.  Although there was some crop damage and minor landslides, there were no reports of serious injuries on the main island of Weno, accordking to Chuuk disaster officials.  The FSM (Federated States of Micronesia) is located about 620 miles southeast of Guam.”

Guam, a US possession, is a tiny island in the west Pacific measuring 30 miles long and an average of 8 miles wide and lies 13 degrees north of the equator.  The temperature varies from about 75 to 85 degrees throughout the year which was awesome for a Florida girl like me – flip flop weather everyday!  Most houses are built to withstand typhoons which are like hurricanes in the States and look like concrete boxes all over the island.  We lived at Andersen Air Force Base at the north end of the island because it has the only military airport (and my husband being a helicopter pilot kind of needed it).  The Naval Base Guam, or Big Navy as it’s sometimes called, is located towards the southend of the island.


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I always like the feeling of Friday.  The kids feel more relaxed because there won’t be homework due the next day, and we might be able to sleep in for a couple of days, depending on the sports/scouts/etc. schedules.  This Friday (today), however, Hanna and Ike are all we can think about.  One of my sisters lives near Baton Rouge that just got smacked by Gustav.  They were without power for a couple of days, and now Louisiana is cleaning up again. An uncle flies for one of the oil companies off the Louisiana coast; he got called back to work yesterday.  And now the Weather Channel is on to the next one.  We are at the upper end of the projected target for Hanna, so we should have a couple of nice rainy, windy days.

Growing up near the beach in Florida, I am used to stormy weather.  I remember the year Hurricane Frederic hit; it was the day before my father’s birthday.  As a kid, you are excited when a big storm comes.  When you lose electricity, you know there probably won’t be school for a few days.  You get to pull out the candles and flashlights.  And all the kids in the neighborhood gradually end up outside playing.  But then you grow up and see the real devastation these storms can leave behind. 

Hurricanes in the Pacific are called typhoons.  We lived in Guam when one of the strongest typhoons hit the island.  Pongsona, pronounced (pong-sahn-wah), struck in early December.  We ended up without power for nearly 2 weeks.  Four of the fuel storage tanks on the island caught on fire just after the typhoon swept through from static electricity, gas vapors in low tanks, and the strong winds.  Gas was being rationed out at the gas stations, and I remember waiting in line for more than 8 hours to fill our gas cans.  When we were able to drive around, the damage was amazing.  Cars were flipped over all around.  Palm trees were pulled out of the ground and leaning.  Homes were badly damaged or totally destroyed.  FEMA tents started popping up all over; they looked like igloos.  And some were still around a year later.  My husband enjoyed bbq-ing outside with the neighbors and having the kids outside playing.  We started worrying if Santa would be able to make it to our house that year.  But the power came back on 5 days before Christmas.  The kids loved it; they ended up having a month-long winter break.

From Wikipedia:  Typhoon Pongsona

Typhoon (JMA)
Category 4 super typhoon (SSHS)
Duration December 3December 11
Intensity 165 km/h (105 mph) (10-min), 940 hPa (mbar)

Typhoon Pongsona

Typhoon Pongsona was the last typhoon of the season, and was the costliest disaster in 2002 in the United States.[12]The name “Pongsona” was contributed by North Korea and is the Korean name for the garden balsam. Pongsona developed out of an area of disturbed weather on December 2, and steadily intensified to reach typhoon status on December 5. On December 8 it passed through Guam and the Northern Marianas Islandswhile near its peak 10-min winds of 175 km/h (110 mph). It ultimately turned to the northeast, weakened, and became extratropical on December 11.

Considered by some to be the worst typhoon to have struck Guam, Pongsona produced strong wind gusts peaking at 278 km/h (173 mph), which left the entire island without power and destroyed about 1,300 houses. With strong building standards and experience from repeated typhoon strikes, there were no fatalities directly related to Pongsona, though there was one indirect death from flying glass. Damage on the island totaled over $700 million (2002 USD, $800 million 2007 USD), making Pongsona among the five costliest typhoons on the island. The typhoon also caused heavy damage on Rota and elsewhere in the Northern Marianas Islands, and as a result of its impact, the name was retired.

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