The NOAA20 satellite captured the moment the eye of Super Typhoon Yutu passed directly over Tinian Island, one of three main islands of the Northern Mariana Islands and a U.S. commonwealth, on 24 October 2018. Photo: NOAA

By Colin Dwyer
24 October 2018

(NPR) – A massive typhoon slammed into a U.S. territory in the west Pacific, lashing the Northern Mariana Islands with gusts of Category 5 intensity Wednesday night local time. Super Typhoon Yutu brought to bear maximum sustained winds of about 180 mph — much more powerful, in other words, than the historically powerful storm that hit Florida two weeks ago.

The islands of Saipan, Tinian and Rota remain under typhoon warnings from the National Weather Service, while Guam and several smaller islands have been placed under a tropical storm warning. And the NWS expects typhoon conditions to continue through late Thursday morning local time. […]

Meteorologists described the storm as not only "Earth's strongest storm of 2018" but also "one of the most intense hurricane strikes on record for the United States and its territories." The more than 50,000 people who live in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands faced a storm surge of up to 20 feet and rainfall of up to 10 inches in certain areas.

Michael Ziobro, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Guam, told NPR that instruments on Saipan and Tinian "gave out" after recording winds of about 104 mph.

And just listen to the unsettling wails of the wind recorded by a camera on Saipan. The island, together with Tinian, stood in the path of Yutu's eye.

“We saw photos, images of destruction from their airport and two other facilities, and just debris strewn about everywhere across that island," Nick Delgado, a reporter at KUAM News in Guam, south of Tinian, told NPR. […]

Super Typhoon Yutu is the latest global storm to undergo explosive rapid intensification. Unbelievable 36-hour stretch. 23 Oct 2018 (00Z): 75 mph; Cat. 1; 974 millibars 24 October 2018 (12Z): 180 mph; Cat. 5; 899 millibars. Graphic: Steve Bowen

The typhoon's intensity escalated at an "unbelievable" pace prior to hitting the islands, according to meteorologist Steve Bowen, just two weeks after Hurricane Michael's intensification in the Gulf of Mexico stunned meteorologists, too.

"As the storm starts to rapidly intensify, it takes on this buzz-saw-like shape. It becomes very well-defined," Angela Fritz of The Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang told NPR earlier this month, referring to Michael's surprising escalation. "You have this sinking feeling that things are about to get much worse than the forecast had suggested." [more]

Super Typhoon Yutu, 'Strongest Storm Of 2018,' Slams U.S. Pacific Territory

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