CNMI Cleans Up After Tropical Storm Bavi, Guam Largely Spared

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Downed trees, power outages, scattered debris throughout Commonwealth

By Ferdie De La Torre

SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, March 17, 2015) – Tropical Storm Bavi weakened as it moved farther west from the CNMI yesterday. Aside from a barrage of fallen trees, it spared Rota from major damage when the storm’s center made its closest approach to the Northern Marianas.

Saipan, Tinian, and Rota were busy yesterday morning clearing up uprooted trees, branches, and other debris.

As of yesterday afternoon, the Commonwealth Utilities Corp. has already restored electric power to 80 percent of Saipan. Departing and arriving flights also resumed.

Public and private schools are going to resume normal operations today, Tuesday.

As of 8pm yesterday, Tropical Storm Bavi’s center was 415 miles west of Rota, 385 miles west of Guam, 450 miles west of Tinian, and 460 miles west-southwest of Saipan, according to the U.S. National Weather Service.

[PIR editor’s note: Pacific Daily News reported that ‘Guam emerged relatively unscathed from the effects of Tropical Storm Bavi, which passed over Guam Sunday night. … The National Weather Service recorded wind gusts of 48 mph in Guam and close to three-quarters of an inch of rain as of yesterday morning, according to meteorologist Derek Williams. … Williams said Saipan, meanwhile, recorded near-typhoon-strength winds of 72 mph.’]

Packing maximum winds of 45 miles per hour, Bavi was moving west toward the Philippines at 13mph and is expected to weaken and could be downgraded to a tropical depression tonight, Tuesday.

Marvin Seman, special assistant for Homeland Security and Emergency Management, told Saipan Tribune that the all-clear signal was hoisted for the CNMI as of 5am yesterday.

Govt resumes work

The government resumed work yesterday in the aftermath of Bavi.

In a statement, Gov. Eloy S. Inos officially declared the islands of Saipan, Tinian, and Rota "all clear" Monday morning.

Inos, citing the latest report from the Emergency Operations Center of the Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, said the storm is maintaining a westward track and has moved further away from the Marianas.

The storm no longer poses a threat to the Commonwealth, Inos said.

"The storm interrupted our routines, but only temporarily. Government services were not affected during Bavi’s worst, and they will not be affected while we do our best to clean up what’s left," Inos said. "We ask all employees and department heads to report to work today to continue essential services and assess their workplaces after the storm’s aftermath."

The governor said his office is "grateful for the team at the Emergency Operations Center who tirelessly sought out troubled areas and sent crews out to assess the damage and clear out those parts of our islands affected."

"We ask all residents to give them patience as they proceed with the work of restoring our villages back to normalcy," Inos said.

He cautioned all residents to not touch any materials that may be hazardous such as broken glass or downed power lines during the relief effort, and refrain from venturing near reefs due to residual rip currents that may cause injury or loss of life.

Cleanup efforts

Rota Mayor Efraim Atalig said there were downed trees but they managed to clear the debris from primary roads yesterday morning to make them passable.

"There was no interruption of power and no injuries were reported so far. Seaport and airport are open and the hospital is still in good shape," Atalig told Saipan Tribune.

He said only one family was evacuated to the Aging Center at the height of the storm.

Atalig said they are doing preliminary damage assessment on houses and farm areas.

"Homeland Security people did a great job and prepared us for the incoming wind and storm," the mayor said.

On Saipan, Mayor David Apatang was seen yesterday morning leading his crew in clearing roads of fallen trees and other debris, with the help of the Department of Public Works.

He said he did not receive any report of storm-related injuries, but some houses and structures were hit by fallen trees.

Apatang supervised his crews in cutting up a big rubber tree that was uprooted and was blocking the entire Hagoi Road corner Texas Road near Mt. Carmel School in Chalan Kanoa.

Power restoration

CUC executive director Alan Fletcher said a little more than 80 percent of Saipan had power as of yesterday afternoon, but a lot of isolated areas still had no power. He said the problem were the lateral power lines in some areas.

He said Kagman 3 was still a problem but CUC was able to restore power and water wells in other portions of Kagman.

Split transformers and knocked down power poles were some of the damage reported.

"It’s down to the hard-grinding work now—of removing debris, fixing pole tops, replacing what poles need to be replaced, replacing what transformers need to be replaced. It’s just time-consuming," Fletcher said.

He said all primary feeders were up by 2am or 3am yesterday.

Fletcher said the water supply is still weak on the island due to the loss of power in all CUC wells.

"Water is lacking in some areas. That is the biggest concern right now," he added.

A separate CUC statement said that, as of 5pm yesterday, water service was already restored to all villages on Saipan with the exception of Garapan and Dandan, while service to Kagman is limited.

"We encourage extra conservation of water by all customers until the entire water system has been fully restored, particularly those in the three areas listed above, until CUC service is fully restored. …Please direct inquiries to CUC Call Center 664-4282," the CUC statement said.

Classes resume

Education Commissioner Dr. Rita Sablan said all public schools, including Head Start Centers, on Saipan, Tinian, and Rota will resume classes today, Tuesday.

The Northern Marianas College will also reopen today, with all classes on Saipan, Tinian, and Rota resuming as scheduled. NMC cancelled its classes yesterday so that staff could assess the impact of the storm and clear debris that were scattered in the campus. Some trees were uprooted and water leaks were found in the campus.

Delta Air Lines corporate communications manager Ryoko Matsumoto said they added one extra flight and used a bigger aircraft for one of their scheduled flights to accommodate affected passengers from Sunday’s cancellations.

On Sunday, Delta cancelled two of three scheduled flights due to bad weather conditions on Saipan and operated one flight as scheduled.

Cape Air/United Airlines cancelled all flights yesterday morning as announced on Sunday. Their flights resumed in the afternoon.

Asiana Airlines flights were also operational, according to their website.

Local carrier Star Marianas survived with no damage to their fleet and resumed operations yesterday morning once the winds were within the limits for their aircraft, according to their president, Shaun Christian.

To assist Bavi victims, the Salvation Army opened a walk-in kitchen to serve meals at their Corps Community Center on Capital Hill, the green house located across the street from Ton Goru, which used to be Esco’s. Anyone may walk in and receive a meal.

"We are cooking and delivering meals to the remaining open Emergency Shelter at the Kagman Community Center," said Salvation Army ministry leader Wayne Gillespie. "We will be working closely with our partners, such as the CNMI Department of Homeland Security, the American Red Cross and others, to efficiently render assistance where it is needed most." (With reports from Joel D. Pinaroc, Dennis Chan, and Jayson Camacho)

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