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HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News/PINA Nius Online) - Guam and the Northern Marianas could be coping with yet another typhoon by the weekend, according to the National Weather Service office in Guam.

Tropical Storm 31W was yesterday located about 1200 miles east-southeast of Guam, according to Bill Ward, a National Weather Service meteorologist. The storm, which had winds of 40 mph at that time, was located very close to Ujelang atoll in the Marshall Islands.

The storm was expected to move more in a westward direction in the next 24 hours and increase in intensity, Ward said.

"It looks like it is possible it will be somewhere in the Marianas by late Saturday going into Sunday," Ward said. "It might be a good idea to hold off on the Christmas lights."

Residents of Ujelang last night were expecting northeast winds from 5 to 45 mph with gusts to 60 mph, and rainfall of 4 to 8 inches. Hazardous surf with heights of 10 to 15 feet also was expected there, as well as flooding of low-lying areas.

Ward said if the storm maintains its current path and development rate, "the current forecast trend shows it will indeed be a typhoon by the time it makes its way toward the Marianas."

The Marianas islands include the heavily populated islands of Guam and Saipan, which is in the neighboring Northern Marianas.

Ward said that having typhoons in the Marianas at this time of year is not a surprise, because of the return of the El Nino weather system.

El Nino is an unusual warming of a large area of the Pacific Ocean that occurs every four to seven years. While the intensity and duration of El Nino remains unclear, the weather phenomenon is expected to create more tropical cyclones and major droughts in the region during the next few years, the weather service has said.

"Especially in El Nino years, it's not unusual to get November and December typhoons," Ward said. "This is like the '97 season with (Supertyphoon) Paka -- an El Nino year."

Paka, which hit December 16, 1997, had sustained winds of about 150 mph and caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damage in Guam.

Although it's too early to state for certain that any storm will hit the island, Ward said it's never too early to prepare.

"(The storm is) so far out - the track is very subjective," he said. "But if there's any preparations people need to make, they might start thinking about that now."

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