With 215 mph winds, Super Typhoon Yutu became the strongest storm to hit United States land this year as it ripped through the Northern Mariana Islands in the north Pacific.
The typhoon, which is packing the punch of a Category 5 hurricane, is now tracking across open water towards Taiwan and the Philippines, where it could make landfall on Oct. 30 or 31.
According to a U.S. National Weather Service statement on Oct. 24, “Super Typhoon Yutu, with maximum sustained winds of 175 mph and maximum gusts of 215 mph passed directly over Tinian Island, one of three main islands of the Northern Mariana Islands, a U.S. commonwealth.”
The powerful winds destroyed NWS instruments, according to the Guam Post.
Guam National Weather Service Meteorologist Paul Stanko told the Post that they had received reports of extensive damage and power outages in Saipan.
“We were getting reports that roofs collapsed, others were being torn off in some cases. We were amazed that the cell phones were still working, but now it seems that’s stopped,” Stanko said.
The Northern Mariana Islands lie directly west of Hawaii, about three quarters of the way between Hawaii and the Philippines.
The total population of the islands is around 52,000, according to the CIA.
About 90 percent of the population live on the island of Saipan.
Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan, the Commonwealth of the Northern Marina Islands’ delegate to U.S. Congress, said the territory will need significant help to recover from the storm.
‘Like a Small War Just Passed Through’
In a telephone interview with the Associated Press from Saipan, Sablan said he had heard reports of injuries and that people are waiting at the island’s hospital to be treated.
“There’s a lot of damage and destruction,” Sablan said. “It’s like a small war just passed through.”
Sablan says colleagues in Congress have reached out to offer help. He expects there will be a presidential disaster declaration put in place.
“We’re surviving, we’ll get through this, we are a resilient people—but it’s just huge,” he said. “We need America’s prayers, and we need help, and I don’t doubt that we will get help. Thank you, America, for always being there for us.”
The eye of the storm passed over the island of Tinian and skimmed the island of Saipan at around 2 a.m.
According to the Guam Daily, on the island of Saipan daylight revealed cars piled on top of each other in parking lots and wooden power poles strewn across the streets.
On one main street there were more than a dozen power lines that had been knocked down in a row.
Electricity on Saipan, also the largest island in the commonwealth, went out at 4 p.m. on Oct. 24, resident Glen Hunter told AP.
“We probably won’t have power for months,” he said, recalling how it took four months to restore electricity after Typhoon Soudelor in 2015.
Yutu is the strongest storm on record to have hit the islands, and the strongest tropical cyclone to make landfall anywhere in the world this year.
AP contributed to this report