Typhoon Melor heads toward Northern Marianas

3 Oct

Copied from: http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20091003/Pacific_typhoon_091003/20091003?hub=World

Residents of the Northern Mariana Islands are bracing themselves as Typhoon Melor churned across the Western Pacific.

Three islands in the U.S. commonwealth — Saipan, Tinian and Agrihan — were under a typhoon warning, while a typhoon watch for Rota was downgraded Saturday to a tropical storm warning, the National Weather Service said. A tropical storm warning for the neighbouring U.S. territory of Guam also was cancelled Saturday.

Most businesses had shut down by Saturday morning, and Saipan residents who don’t live in concrete homes have moved to typhoon shelters, said Charles Reyes, Northern Marianas Gov. Benigno Fitial’s press secretary.

Foreign contract workers, who typically stay in company-provided barracks, were bracing for the worst. Many of the buildings have thin roofs and are made from lightweight wood.

Some airlines cancelled flights in the Northern Marianas as most residents stocked up on food and water supplies ahead of expected flooding.

The storm, with maximum sustained winds of 209 kph, was moving west through the Northern Marianas by early Sunday, the weather service said. Melor was expected to intensify over the next 24 hours, it said.

As of early Sunday, Melor was located 153 kilometres north-northwest of Saipan, moving west at 26 kph. Typhoon force winds of up to 113 kph extended up to 97 kilometres from the centre of the storm.

Saipan, Tinian and Agrihan were forecast to take the brunt of the storm, with the National Weather Service saying damaging winds could knock down trees, triggering power outages.

Rainfall of up to 15 centimetres and waves as high as 4.8 metres were possible, forecasters said.

The U.S. Coast Guard advised mariners not to leave shore until the storm passes.

Meanwhile, the Federal Emergency Management Agency prepared food, water and beds as Typhoon Melor closed in. The agency had more than 90,000 meals, 2,500 cots, 3,800 blankets and 85 power generators waiting in the Northern Mariana islands and Guam.

An additional 110,000 meals and more supplies are ready to be shipped from Hawaii to wherever they’re needed. Those supplies are also available to help the recovery from the tsunami that hit American Samoa earlier this week.

The USS Bonhomme Richard, an amphibious assault ship, is east of the islands and is prepared to offer assistance to residents if needed, the Hawaii National Guard said in a statement. Navy submarines and Air Force aircraft have left Guam.

“We’re watching it, but it is a normal weather pattern for this time of year, and we’re cautiously optimistic there will not be a significant blow,” said Adm. Timothy Keating, who is head of the U.S. Pacific Command.

Guam is located about 5,955 kilometres southwest of Hawaii, just south of the Northern Mariana islands.

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