(Updated Oct. 30.)
Just three years after Typhoon Soudelor, a Category 4 monster with sustained winds of 130 mph with gusts in excess of 160 mph, became the worst storm to strike Saipan and Tinian in the Northern Mariana Islands in nearly 30 years, beleaguered citizens of the U.S. Trust Territory are facing another serious crisis.
Surprisingly, however, if early video is any indication, many of the larger buildings along the Saipan shore appeared to be in better shape than I expected, based on the early reports. To view the brief Oct. 26 Saipan KSPN2 News “Typhoon Yutu Round-Up,” please click here. .
On the other hand, global satellite images present a far starker view of Yutu’s destruction. To view the Weather Channel’s “Super Typhoon Yutu’s Destruction in Saipan, Tinian Seen in Before and After Satellite Photos,” please click here.
The Washington Post framed the awful news as well as any of the U.S. media it its Oct. 25 headline: “Category 5 typhoon Yutu devastates the Northern Marianas in worst storm to hit any part of U.S. since 1935“:
Typhoon Yutu’s 180 mph winds overturned cars, knocked down hundreds of power poles and left an island of thousands without a medical center and another without an airport. Buildings were reduced to haphazard piles of tin and wood; if a structure wasn’t made of concrete, one resident said, it was probably wiped out by the most powerful tropical cyclone to hit any part of the United States since 1935.
. . . According to figures released by the Weather Underground website, Yutu was tied with the fifth-highest wind speed of any storm on record as it made landfall. Only a few storms, including 2013′s Super Typhoon Haiyan, which struck the Philippines, have been stronger, and even then not by much. For the United States, just one storm — the 1935 Labor Day hurricane that hit the Florida Keys — is believed to have been more powerful.
To read more of the Washington Post story, please click here.
Everyone knows know about Hurricane Michael, which made landfall at Mexico Beach, Fla., as a high-end Category 4 hurricane, with maximum sustained winds of 155 mph on Oct. 10, and has claimed at least 54 deaths, but if you blinked you’d miss the news about Yutu. Because the fortunes of the approximately 55,000-plus indigenous people of the Trust Territory of the Mariana Islands, consisting mainly of Saipan and Tinian, present no immediate political benefit to the U.S. media establishment, network coverage of the tragedy has been scant.
In the Weather Channel’s Oct. 26 update, “Super Typhoon Yutu Impacts: 1 Killed, 133 Injured by Storm,” we learn:
- Super Typhoon Yutu left major damage on the Northern Mariana Islands after a direct hit.
- The entire island of Saipan suffered damage and it may take weeks to restore power to everyone.
- The governor’s office confirmed one death and at least 133 injuries in Saipan.
In an Oct. 26 story, “Tinian destruction: 10 out of 10,” the Saipan Tribune reported, “On the smaller island of Tinian, which took a direct hit from Super Typhoon Yutu, most of the houses were destroyed, and even some concrete ones were reduced to rubble, resident Juanita Mendiola said.”
Recovery efforts were well under way by Oct. 29, and in a few parts of the island, power had been restored. To see the latest KSPN2 News reports, please click here.
Growing up in the Washington, D.C. area, October was always my favorite month, as its fresh, cool, blue days trumpeted the end of another hot, humid summer, but as we see, it can also be the cruelest month if you live in the wrong place.
“Our Lady of Mount Carmel intercede for All on Saipan and Tinian as they embrace their journey to Recovery,“ Saipan residents Evelyna and Carlos Shoda, spared from certain months without power, wrote from their temporary home in Fountain Valley, Calif. “Our Lady of Mount Carmel, pray for us.“
And Frances Sablan, secretary of the Amelia Earhart Memorial Monument Committee and a close friend of Marie Castro, its guiding light, wrote in understatement Oct. 25, “Si Yu’us Ma’åsi’! We need all the prayers to help us through this recovery phase!“
Just after midnight, Oct. 27, my prayers were answered when I received a brief email from Marie Castro: “Thanks for your prayers,” she wrote. “Allen [Marie’s nephew] came and shut all the shutters to secure the house from the typhoon, Yutu. I was in total darkness for two days. I did not have any damage around the house, everything is OK other than fallen trees along Navy Hill. I was reading the book [Truth at Last, presumably].”
With the recent news of Josephine Blanco Akiyama’s return to Saipan at age 92, I had been cautiously hopeful that some progress was being made there in favor of the planned Earhart Memorial Monument. But this worthy cause and all the controversy it brings will now be set aside for another time, as far more pressing matters occupy the unlucky citizens of Saipan, Tinian and the rest of the Mariana Islands.
Your prayers are needed and appreciated.