Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Guam Weather, Typhoon Season, and 236 mph wind gust

The Pacific typhoon season runs from May to November. Guam is in a typhoon genesis area, an area near and around typhoon formation. When I was in the Navy I worked at the Fleet Weather Central/Joint Typhoon Center and our primary job was to track typhoons.

One of the strongest storms to ever hit Guam was Super Typhoon Paka on December, 1997. It struck with sustained winds that may have reached 185 mph with a gust recorded at Andersen Air Force Base (in the north near the storm eye) that reached an astonishing 236 miles per hour. It was as if the island had been hit by a giant tornado.

By contrast, Hurricane Camille, which hit the Gulf Coast in 1969, had sustained winds of 190 mph, with estimated gusts near 200 mph. Hurricane Allen in 1980, which struck Northern Mexico and Southern Texas also had sustained winds of 190 mph.

The threat from super typhoons is the reason most structures on the island are made of concrete; often low rising buildings with flat roofs. The damage caused by Paka was extensive, especially to wood structures. Guam residents know how to cope with these storms but Paka was a test.

It's been pretty quiet so far this year. Wikipedia does an outstanding job keeping record of the major tropical events this season. The latest weather event is Tropical Storm Morakot. which is nearly a 1,000 miles NW of Guam as a write this. The weather has been unstable and rainy on Guam, pictured above, the result of Morakot, which is outside this photo in the upper left.

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