Tropical Storm Maria causes damage to Rota’s power system, moves away

Tourists continue to visit the top of Mt. Tapochau despite the rains and strong winds brought by Tropical Storm Maria yesterday. (Jon Perez)

Tropical Storm Maria moved away from the Marianas last night after it caused damage to the power system on Rota, resulted in closure of government offices and courts, brought minor flooding in the CNMI, and cancelled all flights of STAR Marianas at the Saipan airport.

There have been no reports of personal injury or property damage, according to CNMI Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency external affairs officer Nadine C. Deleon Guerrero.

As of 6pm yesterday, Gov. Ralph DLG Torres announced that it’s “all clear” for Saipan, Tinian, and Rota as Tropical Storm Maria moved away from the Marianas and no longer poses a threat to the CNMI.

As of 4pm yesterday, packing maximum sustained winds at 70 miles per hour, Tropical Storm Maria was moving northwest at 9mph. The center was 115 miles northwest of Guam, 120 miles west-northwest of Rota, 145 miles west-southwest of Tinian, 155 miles west-southwest Saipan, 265 miles southwest of Alamagan, and 285 miles south-southwest of Pagan.

The U.S. National Weather Service in Guam said Tropical Storm Maria is forecast to intensify over the next few days, possibly becoming a typhoon Thursday night or early today, Friday.

Deleon Guerrero said government operations are scheduled to resume back to normal this morning, Friday, and that the Saipan airport has reopened with all flights expected to resume as scheduled.

Shelters were opened yesterday on Saipan, Tinian, and Rota, but no one sought refuge.

At Dandan Middle School, vice principal and shelter manager Reo Arriola and maintenance/trades man Abel Valenzuela came to school Wednesday to prepare the cafeteria as a designated shelter.

Arriola said they opened the shelter since 9am yesterday, but as of 3:45pm yesterday no one came to seek refuge.

“It’s a good sign that everybody’s safe,” he said.

HSEM external affairs officer/information officer Deleon Guerrero said with respect to the power system’s damage on Rota, the Commonwealth Utilities Corp. crew has identified the problem and is on standby to perform the necessary repairs after the “all clear” has been issued from HSEM as a safety precautionary measure.

Deleon Guerrero said no power outages have been reported on Saipan and Rota.

The Executive and Legislative branches were closed at 8am yesterday, while the Superior Court, Supreme Court, Clerk of Courts, probation and related offices under the Judiciary were closed after lunch. The U.S. District Court was also closed at 12noon.

All government and autonomous agencies were closed. Summer classes have been cancelled.

Deleon Guerrero said the Commonwealth Health Center was open, but the Community Guidance Center in Navy Hill was closed.

Deleon Guerrero said flash flood watch remains in effect for Saipan, Tinian, and Rota through this morning, Friday, as heavy rainfall is expected as Tropical Storm Maria passes through the Marianas.

She said due to its slow motion, there is potential for excessive rainfall and flooding, especially across Rota.

“Those living in areas prone to flooding should be prepared to take action should flooding develop,” Deleon Guerrero said.

The big trunk of a flame tree split and its half fell into the shoulder of Beach Road near Gold Beach Hotel. Fortunately, no one was hit.

As of 4pm yesterday, despite rain several tourists were seen wading in the calm water and walking along the shore at Micro Beach.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a veteran journalist who has covered all news beats in the CNMI. Born in Lilo-an, Cebu City in the Philippines, De la Torre graduated from the University of Santo Tomas with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He is a recipient of many commendations and awards, including the CNMI Judiciary’s prestigious Justice Award for his over 10 years of reporting on the judiciary’s proceedings and decisions. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@saipantribune.com

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