Rota residents hunker down

Posted on May 25 2023

Former Saipan resident and now Rota businessman Juan Pan Guerrero and his family stayed calm as the outer bands of a slightly weaker-but-still powerful Typhoon Mawar brought heavy rain and strong winds to the southernmost chain of the CNMI at past noon yesterday.

Rota Mayor Aubry Hocog said at around 7pm last night that her team is already preparing a post-assessment of the effects of Typhoon Mawar once conditions improve on the island.

“We’re just playing things by ear. Winds are really picking up. We were told during our briefing that the winds will start diminishing around midnight. So we are going to start prepping our post plan once we have some light.”

Guerrero, who owns the general store Island A-Heart Retail, said the electrical power went out at their Sinapalo neighborhood around 1:40pm and internet service had been cut as well. About 20 minutes after the power went out was when the fury of Mawar started to be felt on Rota, he said.

“Around 2:30pm wind forces/velocity had tripled in the last 30 minutes. …Strong winds and raining now. …People are resilient and already know not to take chances during natural disasters,” he told Saipan Tribune.

Guerrero, who, like other businesses on island, closed his store on the eve of Mawar’s arrival, said the government did a great job with the early typhoon declaration and opening shelters on Rota.

“To the governor and business people, please help us and send assistance. We need transportation to bring shipments,” he said.

As for his message to family and friends on Saipan, Guerrero said his family on Rota is okay, but admitted that going through what was initially declared a super typhoon is a scary thing. From being a 155-mph Category 5 typhoon, Mawar has weakened slightly to 140 mph and is now categorized as a Category 4 typhoon.

“To family, friends, and foes, thank you for your prayers and warnings to be safe. …We are safe and secure here in Sinapalo,” he said.

For Jacqueline Manglona, who owns the Pizzaria Bar & Grill in Sinapalo, she said her family made the necessary preparations for the coming of Mawar.

“We have prepared with the necessities. We closed the restaurant yesterday around 3pm due to inclement weather so that our staff could go home and prepare themselves and we will remain closed until the weather permits,” she said.

Despite their readiness, though, Manglona admitted nothing really prepares you for a Category 4 typhoon.

“The winds have picked up the past hour. We are holding in there and bracing for the worst,” she told Saipan Tribune.

Bong Opiniano said the rain and wind have steadily picked up right after 1pm. He said they’re fortunate to have enough provisions of food and water at their household as they get ready to hunker down until Mawar passes the CNMI’s area of responsibility.

Nelia L. Samaniego, who works at Islander Rent A Car, said the wind and the rain started to pick up 5:50pm yesterday.

Before calling it a day yesterday, the rental company secured all the vehicles in their parking facility. Samaniego is hoping that flights return today.

Asked if Typhoon Mawar is as powerful as Typhoon Mangkhut back in 2015, the Songsong resident said the latter was definitely scarier.

The former Saipan resident said that, unlike Mangkhut, no electric posts have fallen in the wake of Mawar.

Guerrero, meanwhile, provided a quick update on the typhoon at a little past 6pm.

“We are getting pounded now. We just lost a coconut tree,” he said, adding the radar images of Mawar shows the hurler’s eye encompassing the whole area of Guam and Rota.

“I think we’re just getting started here. …Rota will be pounded. …The eye is so big that it covers both Guam and Rota,” he said.

Preparing for post-assessment

Hocog said the first inspection they will do is to check on Rota’s port of entries so supplies can readily be brought to the island.

“First we’re going to go and do our post-assessment at the port of entries—the airport, seaport, and east and west marina—to make sure that there are no obstructions to the road access.”

Next up, she said, are the rest of the infrastructure on island, which includes the Commonwealth Utilities Corp. power plant.

“We’re going to be in contact with CUC and then have them do their assessment because we are experiencing an islandwide power outage right now. All the shelters, the command center, and the hospitals are all running on generators. So we’re tracking this and hopefully with our assessment, our teams can go out and start, I guess, addressing the issues and rectifying what are causing the outages, and so they can bring back the engines and start running the feeders again to supply [power] to the villages of Rota,” said Hocog.

Mark Rabago | Associate Editor
Mark Rabago is the Associate Editor of Saipan Tribune. Contact him at
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