'We learned our lesson': Guamanians brace for Bolaven with Mawar still fresh in their mind
Updated: Oct 9
Amid GPA's warning about more power outages, generators are the residents' best bet
By Gina Tabonares-Reilly and Ron Rocky Coloma
Still recovering from the destructive Typhoon Mawar that pummeled Guam on May 24, local residents are now bracing for Tropical Storm Bolaven, which is being tracked to hit the Marianas on Tuesday.
Some residents began preparing as early as Saturday, hitting the gas stations to fill up their vehicles and their canisters to secure gas for their generators in anticipation of more power outages during and after the storm.
As of 7 p.m. Sunday, Tropical Storm Bolaven was located near 9.7 degrees north latitude and 152.2 degrees east longitude, about 565 miles east-southeast of Guam, moving west at 8 mph, with maximum sustained winds of 45 mph.
Guam is now in Condition of Readiness 2. Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero has declared a state of emergency for the island.
Guam households began stocking up on non-perishable goods such as canned food and household supplies.
Faye Lapuebla went straight to Payless Supermarket after attending Sunday church service, saying she didn’t want to get stranded at home without food.
She said she learned her lesson from her Typhoon Mawar experience when she didn’t plan accordingly. She did not purchase enough food supplies.
Typhoon Mawar left a trail of devastation, cutting off power, water, communication systems and internet service. After the typhoon, several retail shops were either closed or operating on a cash-only basis.
Jhane Rosario said her typical Sunday routine, which consisted of taking a trip to the mall, had to divert to grocery shopping to avoid the pre-storm crowd on Monday.
“Monday is a holiday so it will be crowded and we don’t know if the rain will start coming,” Rosario said. “We are hoping by tomorrow we are already in the comfort of our home so we are now buying what we need like batteries for flashlights, food, dog food and medicines.”
Paul Del Rio of Barrigada shuttered his windows and secured the plants and garbage bins to make sure they are not blown away by possibly strong winds.
“It’s OK to overreact and be prepared than be sorry later,” he said. “We learned our lesson well from the latest Typhoon Mawar and we don’t want to take any chances.”
Shannah Solamillos, a resident of Dededo, acknowledges the island's increasing dependence on generators, citing the prolonged power outages after major typhoons like Mawar.
“There has been a rise in households investing in generators because this is due to the long power outages that occur after a strong typhoon,” the 17-year-old said. “The power lines can not be fixed quickly, especially when the area has been severely impacted.
“After Mawar, so many homes were left without power ranging from almost two weeks to a month,” she added.
Eriana Ada, a resident of Mongmong, said, “Generators come in handy when it comes to power outages, and I'm sure we would be getting a lot of those after the typhoon.”
“My family wanted to buy a generator too, but the prices are too expensive for us to invest in right now,” she added.
“There was a rise in the use of generators because of the unpredictable power outage,” said Mangilao resident Dante Perez, 68. “The slow power restoration made the residents to be more alert now and better prepared,” the 68-year-old added.
Angelina Blaz, from Barrigada, is investing in a generator because “super typhoons in the past have caused many to be without power for months and have caused much damage to electrical equipment such as air conditioners.
“In Guam, living without air conditioning is very hard,” she added.
Blaz said that people are making sure their gas tanks are full. After Mawar, everybody was worried about not being able to get gas because one of the shipping ports got damaged.
“I believe the more typhoons Guam residents experience, the more they take storm warnings seriously and the more they want to invest in good typhoon shutters, solar panels and generators,” she added.
Blaz’s father, Mathew, said, “Make sure you have enough water, gas and food to last a week or a couple of days at least.”
“Secure any loose objects outside, get emergency supplies like batteries and flashlights and invest in good typhoon shutters if you can,” said the 58-year-old, who has been living on the island for three decades.
The Blaz family have been preparing for the storm by bordering up their windows, bringing in whatever they can into the house and securing the rest of their equipment outside.
“We are also buying the necessary foods and supplies to help us during and after the storm,” said Blaz. “I believe the storm has made many learn their lesson on what to expect from a typhoon.
“Now the people of Guam are preparing more efficiently for the upcoming typhoon, and I think that we are going to be more prepared,” she added.
Solamillos appreciates the local government's efforts in setting up shelters in public schools and the Red Cross's preparations.
“The government will most likely have shelters in place at public schools during the typhoon,” Solamillos said. “This will help residents whose homes aren’t strong enough to withstand the typhoon winds.
“Red Cross is also preparing supplies for the aftermath of the typhoon,” she added. “People from other islands might provide their help in restoring power similar to how it was with Mawar.”
“After Mawar, many of my neighbors checked on each other, some cooked surplus food and offered it to neighbors and others offered extra ice if they had,” Blaz said. “I know public schools are offered as shelters and some locals would organize donation drives to help families in need.”
“I learned many people are willing to give a hand and bring me and my family back to our feet,” Solamillos said. “I definitely felt the support from the island community.”
“The incoming typhoon will be a test for the residents to be better prepared,” Perez said. “Before Super Typhoon Mawar hit Guam, I was not really prepared at once. I took it for granted. Now, I learned my lesson.”
The National Weather Service said Bolaven is expected to maintain its general course with a slight increase in forward speed through Monday afternoon.
Bolaven is forecast to intensify through Monday, possibly becoming a typhoon by Monday night.
Current forecast tracks have Bolaven passing through the Marianas late Tuesday.
“Tropical Storm Bolaven should not be underestimated,” the Joint Information Center said. “All islands will feel the passage of Bolaven, but any one, or two, islands could face a direct hit (maximum intensity).”
A typhoon watch remains in effect for Guam, Rota, Tinian, and Saipan. A typhoon watch means that there is a high possibility for damaging (39 mph) and/or destructive (58 mph) winds and heavy rains.