Guam recovers after Mother Nature's wrath - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Guam recovers after Mother Nature's wrath

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It was a night of brutal winds and heavy rains but within hours of welcoming Typhoon Dolphin to the Marianas, the island was placed in Condition of Readiness 4. With the all-clear given, recovery efforts were in full swing Saturday and residents islandwide assessing their homes and businesses for damages.

So how did Guam weather the Category 2 typhoon? It was a sleepless night for Rudy Matanane. The mayor of Yigo told KUAM News, "I thought that Typhoon Dolphin was going to be friendly, but it ain't. It got some strong winds." That's because his northern village felt the brunt of Dolphin's blow.

According to warning coordination meteorologist Chip Guard, preliminary data recorded winds at 106 miles per hour at Andersen Air Force Base, 85 MPH per hour near the Guam International Airport, and as high as 75 MPH at Naval Station down in Sumay. "Last night, the small eye heading towards us expanded and forced the eyewall cloud over the northern part of Guam," Guard detailed. "This is actually a good lesson why we tell you what to expect and then we tell you to plan for one category higher. And people plan for that, and so they were ready and they had to take some quick actions and they were ready to do that."

It was a lesson resident Larry Taitano learned the hard way. "I was complacent. That's my fault. For 13 years we didn't - we just took it for granted - and this one time things just happened," he shrugged. "It is not as bad as 13 years ago. [Supertyphoon] Pongsona was worse. This was trees and bananas. At least the roof didn't blow off one of the houses. So this is a lot better than before. But we didn't expect it to be this bad."

On Saturday morning Taitano required the assistance of a backhoe and Mayor Matanane's staff to move heavy debris that blocked access to a multi-family ranch. Taitano says his family wasn't prepared and reports he's suffered 24 casualties at his home - 24 egg-laying chickens - in addition to a number of fallen fruit trees. "It's devastated. I mean, I lost all my chickens to the typhoon," he said.

"We lost most of our mango trees. A lot of our banana trees. Some herbal plants that we planted years ago. We have one mango tree that's left. I guess this is a way to start over again, after all these years."

While recovery efforts begin at the Taitano compound, residents can also expect to see new faces making assessments islandwide too. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has had a 40-member team on island since before Typhoon Dolphin's approach and have many more on standby in Honolulu, now en route to Guam. Senior federal official Deanne Criswell said, "There has not been a disaster declaration yet, but we will have teams out in the field. There's also NGOs like the American Red Cross as well as Guam's readiness programs that will help citizens as soon as they need it."

Criswell added, "It's not just FEMA. We have brought in other federal resources, other federal partners to assist us. And those we knew would be needed right away like the Army Corps of Engineers that has been assisting with some of the generator issues that has been experienced here, and Health and Human Services in case we had any medical needs."

But it's not just FEMA you may see out and about. Governor Eddie Calvo and Lieutenant Governor Ray Tenorio made preliminary assessments of the island early Saturday morning, and Tenorio said, "I can't say enough good things about all the emergency responders. All the people who have been working through the night. Everyone. Everything. From private to vendors whether it be telecommunications or data providers that really helped us."

And telecommunications was a gamechanger through Typhoon Dolphin. As Tenorio tells KUAM, thanks to social media and instant messaging, the Joint Information Center and emergency responders could get data faster - like power and water outages and fallen debris. "Without that data sometimes, it becomes hard for us to figure out what's going on. So when somebody lost power in Sinajana, we got a WhatsApp notice. And we got an issue at the Guam Memorial Hospital, we got a WhatsApp notice. So these things really helped us see how the team was working and we have a fantastic government as well as a private sector team," he said.

In the event another system develops and threatens the island, residents like Taitano promise to be ready. He said, "We have to have a family standard operating procedure. If its Condition 3, we're not going to take it for granted anymore. We'll shutter-up. We bring the animals in. we don't assume it'll go to Saipan, like we were told. And next time we'll be ready."

Also a note for northern residents: the Guam Environmental Protection Agency and the Guam Waterworks Authority will be testing Guam's potable water situation. Residents are advised that if you did experience a water outage during Typhoon Dolphin, you are urged to boil tap water used for cooking and drinking.

As the Government of Guam is now in recovery mode, if at this time you still don't have power, water or have damage to report you're urged to call GPA at 475-1472/3/4, GWA at 646-4211, or DPW at 478-0222.

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