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By Scott Radway

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (July 3, 2002 - Pacific Daily News)---Meteorologists were predicting damaging winds could begin tomorrow morning as Tropical Storm Chata'an yesterday continued its crash course for the Mariana Islands.

At press time, Chata'an, which in Chamorro means rainy or a really bad day, was passing Chuuk about 20 miles out, moving about 10 mph with maximum sustained winds of 50 mph, according to a National Weather Service bulletin.

As of 7 p.m. the storm was located 7.9 degrees north and 151.9 degrees east.

NWS meteorologist Chip Guard said yesterday the storm was expected to intensify into a typhoon in the next 36 hours. The Joint Typhoon Warning Center was predicting last night that Chata'an would cross the Marianas somewhere between Guam and Saipan.

Guard said the storm should reach the Marianas - if the current track holds - Thursday night, with the onset of winds Thursday morning. High surf could begin today, and the storm could clear by Friday afternoon.

But Guard said the storm, at more than 600 miles from the Marianas, could easily change direction, slow down or speed up; so no track is definite.

"At this point, it is just too far to tell," Guard said. "But it appears it will hit somewhere near the chain of the southern Marianas."

Guam, Rota, Tinian and Saipan were all put on a NWS typhoon watch yesterday afternoon, meaning typhoon conditions are possible in those islands within 48 hours.

Guard said if the storm passes north of Guam, the island will be hit by the least intense quadrant of the storm.

On Chuuk, where that quadrant hit the island, the storm brought heavy rain - 15 inches in 12 hours - but not severe winds, Guard said.

For additional reports from the Pacific Daily News, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Pacific Daily News (Guam).

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