Typhoon Dolphin Expected To Pass Between Guam, Rota

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Schools closed, government work stopped in advance of storm

By Frauleine S. Villanueva

SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, May 15, 2015) – Commonwealth residents are being urged to prepare for the brunt of Typhoon Dolphin as it continues to move closer to the islands and is anticipated to traverse between Rota and Guam later today.

In a news briefing yesterday by Marvin Seman, special assistant for Homeland Security and Emergency Management, Typhoon Condition I is expected to be declared on Rota at 4am this morning. That means destructive typhoon force winds of 75-150mph is expected within 12 hours.

"Rota will get the maximum destructive wind force. We’re looking at that. It will start rolling in around 9am and continue at 1am Saturday morning," Seman said.

"The storm is relatively at about a 50-mile radius so that puts Rota and Guam in that red zone and that’s why we consider it a landfall," he added.

Saipan and Tinian are expected to be under Tropical Storm Condition I by this morning.

"We anticipate [the storm to pass through] between 4pm and 5pm tomorrow. And relatively as it passes, that’s when we also have the highest increase in winds for Saipan and Tinian to about 60 miles an hour," Seman said.

Typhoon Dolphin is expected to be a Category 3 cyclone as it moves nearer to the CNMI. As of press time, it had maximum sustained winds of 105 miles per hour and was moving west-northwest at 15 miles per hour.

"This storm, because of its forward speed is relatively slow, it’s going to cause a lot of problems for us," Seman said.

Flooding and shelters

A flood advisory was also released by the HSEM yesterday, with Gov. Eloy S. Inos declaring flash flood watch from midnight through late evening tomorrow.

According to the advisory, torrential rains of 8 to 12 inches are possible.

It advised the public to stay away from streams, drainage, ditches, and low-lying areas prone to flooding as well as warned them of the dangers of driving and walking in these conditions.

Seman identified several flood prone areas on Saipan such as San Jose to San Antonio, Susupe including its lake, and Chalan Kanoa.

"If your house is susceptible to flooding, we encourage you to move to either a relative, a friend or to one of our shelters," Seman said.

As of 6pm yesterday, shelters were opened to those who needed to evacuate their homes. These are Tanapag Middle School, Garapan Middle School, Koblerville Elementary School, and Kagman High School.

"We encourage the general public to stay off the roads and just brace themselves until after the storm. If they have any concerns, questions or emergencies, they may call either 911 or 237-8000," said Seman.

Suspension of classes, govt work

Due to the threat of the typhoon, the government also declared work suspension of all non-critical government employees for today.

The CNMI Public School System also suspended classes as well as work for public schools on Saipan, Tinian, and Rota.

"For more updates on the school status, please listen to the radio or check the PSS website at cnmipss.org," said Education Commissioner Dr. Rita Sablan.

Northern Marianas College also declared their classes suspended and campuses closed on all three islands.

Grace Christian Academy and Mount Carmel School also cancelled classes for today.

Power outages

The Commonwealth Utilities Corp. the public to prepare for possible power interruptions, which could also affect the water supply.

In a statement, CUC said the 24-Hour CUC Call Center will be open for customer calls throughout the storm. Information received from these calls will be forwarded to field personnel, CUC said.

"As with any severe storm, field response may be longer than usual as power and water personnel deal with potentially treacherous conditions resulting from the typhoon. To report outages or to receive updates, customers should call the CUC Call Center at 66 4-4CUC (4282)."

In addition to the 24-Hour Call Center, CUC will post the latest information on Facebook. Updates will include photos and videos of the storm and post-storm restoration efforts. To access this information, simply log in to your Facebook account and "Like" the Commonwealth Utilities Corporation page.

Rota fully prepared

Rota Mayor Efraim Atalig assured yesterday that they are fully prepared and will start evacuating people to two designated shelters after Typhoon Condition II is announced at 4pm.

"We have secured all government offices, the availability of fuel, and have advised boaters to bring in their boat from the marina. We have also prepared all the generators for all the shelters," he said.

The two designated shelters are Dr. Rita Hocog Inos Sr/Jr High School and the Aging Center in Sinapalo.

"We haven’t evacuated people yet until the full announcement of Typhoon Condition II at 4pm," he said.

"We’re ready for the impending storm and happy that the Emergency Management Office and emergency operators from Saipan are here to assist us," he added.

Atalig noted that residents have been notified to prepare necessities such as butane gas, food, and water.

"So we’re fully prepared," he said.

6 firefighters sent to Rota

Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services Commissioner Claudio K. Norita deployed six firefighters to Rota to augment the island’s understaffed fire department.

DFEMS spokesman Derek Gersonde said the deployment of six firefighters from the Search and Rescue Unit was done in coordination with HSEM.

Rota only has five firefighters.

"Due to the expected close approach of Typhoon Dolphin, this deployment of personnel is needed as Rota will undergo high surf, high winds and heavy rain over the next few days," he said.

The six firefighters will remain on Rota until Monday or until the typhoon is no longer a threat to the island.

No flights

United Airlines and Cape Air flights have been cancelled because of Typhoon Dolphin.

"All United Airlines flights scheduled to depart from and arrive at Guam International Airport today have been cancelled due to adverse weather conditions as a result of the impending approach of Typhoon Dolphin," United said in a statement yesterday.

In addition, Cape Air/United Express has cancelled all flights today, May 15, 2015.

United urges their customers to check the latest status of their flights at united.com or by calling United Reservations at 1-800-UNITED-1 (1-800-864-8331).

(With reports from Dennis B. Chan and Jayson Camacho)

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