Gusty winds scare residents, cause outages


Strong winds that had many wondering if there was a storm on Saipan awakened many residents early yesterday morning and caused power outages in many areas. There was indeed a typhoon but it was too far away, in Palau.

Commonwealth Utilities Corp. executive director Gary Camacho said the winds were the cause of most the power interruptions on Saipan.

“The winds forced deteriorated power pole hardware to fail on Feeders 1, 4, and 7 on…Saipan. In addition, fallen trees also contributed to other interruptions on these feeders,” he said.

U.S. National Weather Service warning coordination meteorologist Charles “Chip” Guard told Saipan Tribune that the strong winds were associated with strong thunderstorms that moved across the islands in the early morning hours Wednesday.

Guard said they had a special weather statement out for winds up to 40 miles per hour but not as strong as the ones Saipan received.

“We did not have an indication of winds that strong on the radar or from our weather balloon,” he said.

He said the thunderstorms are associated with a complex monsoon system that extends from the South China Sea eastward through Typhoon Lan to an area well northeast of Saipan.

“The winds you received were not directly associated with the typhoon to the west,” Guard said.

As of 1pm yesterday, Typhoon Lan, which had maximum sustained winds at 75 miles per hour, was moving north. Its center was 390 miles north-northwest of Koror, 450 miles west-northwest of Yap, and 845 miles west of Guam.

According to the U.S. National Weather Service in Guam, Typhoon Lan will continue to move away from Yap and Palau and stay well west of the Marianas. Lan will also continue to intensify over the next few days.

Still, acting governor Arnold I. Palacios advised the public yesterday to avoid venturing near exposed reef lines and beaches, especially those facing south and west, as rip current will be life threatening.

The Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency also issued a precautionary advisory as high surf will produce beach erosion and dangerous swimming conditions.

Yesterday, the Public School System cancelled classes due to the inclement weather and power outages in many public schools, while some church activities for children were suspended.

Education Commissioner Cynthia De Leon Guerrero cancelled classes on Saipan and Tinian and ordered the inspection for all electrical hazards, flooding and debris in all schools.

Classes in private schools such as Saipan International School, Mt. Carmel School, Brilliant Star School, Eucon International School, The Montessori School, and Saipan Community School prevailed despite the bad weather. The only private school that suspended classes yesterday was the Saipan Seventh-day Adventist School.

Yesterday was normal operations for the Northern Marianas College and government agencies.

On Tinian, the cause of power outages were also primarily due to failed power pole hardware affected by the strong winds, according to Camacho.

“Feeders 1, 2 and 4 were off line from 3am through 10:30am and Feeder 4 lasted until 12:30pm,” he said.

CUC linemen were not able to start doing damage assessment and repairs until 6am.

The power supply on both islands is back to normal as CUC crews have made all the necessary repairs to the systems.

“The crews have and will continue to assess the power distribution systems and address any problems accordingly,” Camacho said.

When asked about the strong winds, a staff of the CNMI Homeland Security said there was a high wind advisory at 4:30am yesterday.

South to southwest winds had speeds of 30 to 40 miles per hour, with gusts up to 60 miles per hour.

He said the strong winds, which lasted until 6am, were not because of Typhoon Lan but just from bad weather.

Another wind advisory was issued from 2pm to 7pm yesterday due to southwest winds that were at 20 to 35 miles per hour, with gusts of up to 45 miles per hour in heavy rain showers.

Saipan residents felt strong winds between 4:30am and 6am as items and clothes placed outside houses and apartments were blown out.

Small trees were toppled while palm trees’ leaves were ripped off. Debris, leaves, and small tree branches were seen littering many roads.

Jerry, 50, said he was awakened at 4:30am from the noise coming from empty water gallons that were rolling outside their apartment unit in As Lito.

“I thought my neighbors had a fight. When I opened our door, I saw our empty water gallons as well as our neighbors’ rolling and being dragged back and forth,” Jerry said.

He said the winds were so strong that they also managed to move the jugs filled with water and swept chairs and tables outside the apartment units.

Rina, 25, a resident of Kagman, said it made her wonder whether Typhoon Lan had moved to the CNMI.

Rina said it reminded her of the destruction brought by Typhoon Soudelor in 2015. When she left the house yesterday morning, there was no power at the house and debris were scattered on the road. (With Bea Cabrera)

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a senior reporter of Saipan Tribune. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered all news beats in the CNMI. He is a recipient of the CNMI Supreme Court Justice Award. Contact him at

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