Super Typhoon Yutu Hits the U.S. Territories in the Pacific

Super Typhoon Yutu

On October 21, 2018, a tropical depression developed to the east of Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands, as ocean sea-surface heat content increased. Shortly after strengthening, the Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC), located in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, assigned the system the identifier 31W and the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) named the system Yutu.

From October 23 to 24, Yutu continued to organize and explosively intensity, reaching Category 5 super typhoon intensity on October 24, while moving towards the island of Saipan.

On October 25, Yutu made landfall on Tinian and the southern part of Saipan at Category 5 intensity, with 1-minute sustained winds of 180 mph (285 km/h), becoming the strongest tropical cyclone to ever impact the Northern Mariana Islands and the second-strongest to strike the United States soil, topped only by the Labor Day hurricane that hit the Florida Keys in 1935.

The eye of Yutu passed over the islands of Tinian and Saipan, causing the National Weather Service to describe the typhoon as “the storm which sets the scale for which future storms are compared to.”  (Associated Press, October 26, 2018).

Saipan and Tinian are the largest of the Mariana islands and home to about 55,000 people. Tinian island used to be once the world’s biggest air base and is known for being the launching point for the atomic bomb attacks against Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan on August 6 and 9, 1945.

On Saipan, the typhoon killed a woman and injured 133 other people. Most buildings in southern Saipan lost their roofs or were destroyed, with low-lying vegetation being ripped from the ground. The majority of homes on Tinian were damaged or destroyed. The entirety of both islands was left without electricity and tap water.

On October 26, at the request of the islands’ Republican Governor, Ralph Torres, President Trump signed a major disaster declaration, enabling the islands to receive federal funding.

For me, this event has been personal and emotional. For a couple of years I have been a contributor for two of the major newspapers in the islands, Marianas Variety (more conservative) and Saipan Tribune (more centrist).

On October 24, I sent some materials to the editors, but they didn’t get back to me with a prompt answer, as they usually do. Then I got a bad feeling.

My bad feeling amplified when I noticed that, on the same day, both journals stopped posting for their Opinion Section. Then I read the horrible news.

With a bent heart, I sent the chief-editors e-mail messages with my best thoughts and prayers for them, their families and editorial staff. So far, just one of them returned my message, with thanks.


NOTE – A version of the article was previously published in MARIANAS VARIETY.


TIBERIU DIANU has published several books and a host of articles in law, politics, and post-communist societies. He currently lives and works in Washington, DC and can be followed on MEDIUM.




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