• By Jeff Voacolo

Brace for yet another threat


As we all are focused on the Covid-19 pandemic and trying as hard as we can to practice social distancing, washing our hands 300 times a day, and applying hand sanitizer every time we get back into our vehicles from the supermarket, we must not forget what season we are entering. Although Guam is susceptible to typhoons all year round, the actual season is from June to December.

On May 13, the Pacific experienced our first named tropical storm, Vongfong, which developed east of Mindanao, Philippines and rapidly intensified into a Category 3 typhoon reaching 100 mph winds that left an estimated $43 million worth of damage. Yet, hardly anyone noticed.

While we are all extremely focused on our health and trying not to catch this horrible virus, we must not forget that this time of year we all must be extremely alert to the season that we are fast approaching. Weather forecasters for the U.S. government say the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season is likely to be more active than normal, predicting as many as 13 to 19 named storms.

Hurricane Arthur became the first hurricane of 2020 with winds exceeding 59 mph moving up the eastern seaboard of the United States. The 2020 typhoon season is also expected to see above average storms forming. The CNMI has felt the brunt of the last five years with deadly typhoons; each one narrowly missing Guam.

Soudelor was a deadly typhoon in 2015 and Yutu in 2018 was equally devastating. When I went to Saipan a week after Yutu, I could not believe the damage and suffering that this storm inflicted on the CNMI community. The average family was without power for three months with some households not receiving power for six months.

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I was never a very patient person, and this, I believe, was a learning moment for me — waiting in line for three hours for water and four to six hours for a 5-gallon container of fuel. These two storms had caused extremely hard times for the CNMI but as resilient as the people are in the CNMI, the true spirit of friendship and family shined through these difficult times. Guam has not seen a bad typhoon since Pongsona in 2002. We have been fortunate over the last 18 years.

I pray that we, along with our neighbors in the Pacific, get lucky for another 18 years.

While this may be a mild season for Guam, I also believe in being prepared. As my father taught me, plan for the worst, hope for the best. The few families in the CNMI who had solar energy systems with storage were the only ones that had energy during those trying times following the typhoon. Solar energy with storage is becoming mainstream now.

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The price points are good. They are affordable and there are programs with zero monies down to protect yourself against the lack of power. Even with the newest power plants it all comes down to transmission and distribution.

With our lines running overhead and not in the ground, believe me, we do not have energy security. Protect yourself and be prepared.

Jeffrey Voacolo is the vice president and chief operations officer of Micronesia Renewable Energy. Send feedback to jvoacolo@micronesiarenewableenergy.com

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