The first major weather disturbance to hit the Marianas Islands this year looked like a “regular banana typhoon” according to officials from the National Weather Service and the Saipan Chamber of Commerce but she behaved like a monster.
Tingting which is Chinese for “young girls ” was a tropical storm when it passed Guam in the early morning of June 29 on its northwesterly trek dumping record amounts of rain and 55 mph gusts of wind. By the time the storm passed the Northern Mariana Islands it had become a low-grade typhoon but in its wake was a path of destruction and death.
For Guam residents the last weekend in June was nothing short of wet with an all-time daily rainfall record in June of 16.81 inches falling at the National Weather Service Office in Tiyan Guam on June 27. The torrential rains triggered landslides in Nimitz Estates and in parts of the village of Santa Rita. A total of 38.032 inches of rain fell in June making it the wettest June on record in 47 years when records started to be kept. The all-time recorded month was in August 1997 when 38.49 inches fell. The all-time daily record was on Dec. 8 2002 when 19.97 inches fell during Supertyphoon Pongsona.
Several deaths have been attributed to the storm. A man died of injures after his pickup became stuck in raging waters at Ylig bridge in Yona Guam and five employees of Guam Seawalker Tours went kayaking in turbulent ocean waters off Piti near the Fish Eye Marine Park observatory and drowned.
Dozens of families in the village of Merizo were left digging out their home from sea water that engulfed residences along the beach at the Southern end of Guam.
On Saipan over 1 000 tourists were stranded at the height of the typhoon with wind strengths of up to 75 mph and gusts to 90 mph.
Gov. Juan N. Babuata declared a local state of emergency as did Guam Gov. Felix P. Camacho on June 28. Whether or not either asks the Federal Emergency Management Agency for assistance is still being considered. Both governments have 30-days to formally ask for assistance if deemed appropriate. As of press time reports were still being gathered by officials from both islands to determine the amount of damages to property and agricultural crops.
While a deadly storm Tingting was a boon for some businesses on Guam and in Saipan. There were no reports of any significant damages to hotels which were heavily occupied by tourists who had become victims to cancelled flights.
Guam Visitor Bureau officials who had been monitoring the welfare of tourists throughout the storm reported no incidents as most visitors decided to stay inside bars and restaurants to avoid the fury of Tingting.
Island residents also flocked to malls restaurants and theaters after cleaning up homes and property following the storm.
Saipan’s Babauta said “Most retail stores gained from last-minute shoppers buying emergency supplies while fishermen suffered because they could not go fishing due to the high seas.”
Camacho kept all but essential government of Guam workers away from work on June 28 as did most private business owners who decided to allow employees a chance to cleanup rain-soaked residences and property.
Scott Crockett CNMI resident conservationist of the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation service said the biggest damage was crop loss due to flooding. Crockett said damage assessments are being conducted by the USDA Farm Service Agency based in Guam for financial reimbursements to the affected farmers.
As for the island’s grocery stores hardware shops and water vendors business was not as good as in previous storms. Normally these stores do a brisk business during typhoons; however merchants contacted by the Journal reported no unusual surge in sales prior to and after the storm.
John I. Hirsh executive director of the American Red Cross in the CNMI and said 271 houses were damaged by Tingting affecting some 1 355 people. A report Hirsh supplied to the Journal showed that 68 houses including 13 in Tinian sustained major damages while six were destroyed.
The Commonwealth Utilities Corp. said damaged utility equipment was estimated to cost some $300 000. Power was shut off at the height of the storm but was restored the following day in most areas while some others remained without electricity for up to five days.
The Guam Power Authority did shut off power to Southern regions during the course of the storm. Officials said they were able to restore power to parts of Agat and Santa Rita and from Yona to Inarajan soon after the storm passed. GPA assisted people in pockets where electricity had gone off and that restoration was accomplished by the early morning hours of June 30.
A survey among Saipan’s 15 hotels showed that while most beachfront facilities were damaged room occupancy lost to canceled flights was balanced by additional room nights from stranded passengers and flights diverted to Saipan.
Camacho signed an executive order declaring a local state of emergency. The order allows the governor to use $250 000 from the general fund for emergency response and procurement needs.
The heavy rains clogged intake valves at the Ugum Water Treatment Plant in southern Guam and a boil-water notice was in effect for parts of Santa Rita and Inarajan.
On Guam 542 people took refuge in shelters. All shelters were cleared by July 1 and summer school classes continued.
The annual Liberation Day carnival was shut down for a few days because of the storm and several booths were damaged. Liberation Day officials said the repairs were quickly made and the carnival was reopened and has been extended to Aug. 1 in order that vendors might recoup losses attributed to the storm. MBJ