Tropical Storm Approaching CNMI Worries Residents

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Islands yet to recover fully from Typhoon Soudelor

By Andrew O. De Guzman

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Oct. 16, 2015) – Residents whose homes were either damaged or destroyed by Typhoon Soudelor say they are worried about the approaching Tropical Storm Champi.

"Our roof is still not secured, so we may have to go to the nearest shelter," Jess, a 55-year-old computer-aided design operator, told Variety on Thursday, at 4:30 p.m.

When Soudelor hit Saipan on Aug. 2, 2015, the tin-roofed home in Garapan of Jess and his 25-year-old son, a construction worker, was nearly blown away..

For a week, Jess said he and his son slept in their car until they found an unfurnished studio-type apartment on Navy Hill.

"We still don’t have power. The roof of our new home was also damaged by Typhoon Soudelor and we have to repair the roof so we can stay there," Jess said.

Another typhoon victim, Bert, a 54-year-old butcher, said his room was badly damaged by Typhoon Soudelor. It is still leaking and the house itself still has no power or water.

"I may have to seek shelter in my employer’s building for safety," Bert told Variety.

Late Thursday afternoon, many motorists headed to gas stations to fill their tanks.

Press Secretary Ivan Blanco said Public School System shelters on Saipan will open at around 5 p.m. Thursday to allow school children to complete classes.

Other shelters such as the Kagman Community Center and the Aging Office opened earlier, with priority given to those with disabilities and medical needs, Blanco said.

Also on Thursday, U.S. District Court for the Northern Mariana Islands Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona said the federal court will be closed today, Friday, Oct. 16, due to Tropical Strom Champi.

Commissioner of Education Dr. Rita A. Sablan announced that all public school classes on Friday have been canceled on Saipan and Tinian, but Rota public schools including the Head Start center will remain open.

Northern Marianas College will also be closed on Friday.

Storm preparation

In an interview on Thursday, Gov. Eloy S. Inos said the CNMI learned "very painful lessons" from Soudelor so the preparation for Champi should be faster, smoother and more efficient this time.

"I also want the public to make the necessary preparations and to minimize damage. We don’t want to have the same situation that we experienced with Soudelor. We’ve made a lot of adjustments since then."

Inos said mobilization of the emergency response personnel had already started.

The governor is supposed to leave for the United States on Monday. "But I won’t be leaving on that day. I will be monitoring the situation, and the date of my trip will depend on the storm."

At 7 p.m. Thursday, CNMI Homeland Security and Emergency Management said a tropical storm warning remained in effect for Rota, Tinian, Saipan, Alamagan, Pagan and Agrihan.

Tropical storm conditions, including damaging winds of 39 mph or greater, were expected within 24 hours, the advisory stated.

Champi was 325 miles east-northeast of Saipan; 340 miles east-northeast of Tinian; 385 miles east-northeast of Rota; 320 miles east-southeast of Alamagan; 360 miles east-southeast of Pagan; and 430 miles east-southeast of Agrihan.

According to the advisory, Champi was moving toward the west-northwest at 17 mph, and was expected to continue west-northwest the next couple days with a gradual slow down in forward speed. This track would take the center of Champi through the Northern Marianas north of Anatahan on Friday afternoon.

"Maximum sustained winds remain at 60 mph…. Champi is forecast to intensify the next few days and could become a typhoon [on] Friday."

The advisory said residents should prepare by securing loose objects around the house and/or removing and securing objects to prevent them from being picked up and propelled by possible, strong winds.

"Residents living in tents, damaged homes, or homes with compromised safety are strongly encouraged to take precautionary measures and to anticipate heavy rain, strong winds, and possible flooding."

For more details on precautionary steps, call the Emergency Operations Center at 237-8000.

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