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Super Typhoon Yutu Batters Islands Near Guam With 215 MPH Gusts

NORTHERN MARIANA ISLANDS — Super Typhoon Yutu barreled into the Northern Mariana Islands on Wednesday packing 175 mph winds and gusts of up to 215 mph. The Category 5 storm — which is the same thing as a hurricane — passed directly over Tinian Island, located about 120 miles north of Guam. The islands are a U.S. Commonwealth and many of its 53,000 residents are American citizens.

The typhoon is the strongest ever to hit the region, according to the news outlet Axios, and probably the strongest to ever hit the U.S. and its territories. Federal emergency officials wrote in a tweet they are monitoring the storm and coordinating with local authorities.

The National Weather Service said in its latest update that winds are still between 130 and 160 mph as the “dangerous” storm rips through Tinian and Sipan.

“Devastaing damage is expected,” the agency warned.

The weather service painted a picture that reads like something out of a disaster film script. Homes and apartment building would likely collapse. Flying debris was expected to cause major damage and could kill people, pets and livestock. Most industrial buildings would be destroyed and glass would be blown out of high-rises, potentially falling on anything below. Trees would be uprooted and could sever access to certain areas for days or weeks.

Photos posted on social media showed severely damaged and overturned cars — one was completely lifted off the ground — downed powerlines blocking roads and toppled trees on the southern part of Saipan. Another showed a gutted apartment building where the roof and at least one section of a wall had collapsed.

Meanwhile, metal debris and more downed powerlines were seen on Tinian, as well as damaged buildings.

In the immediate aftermath, residents could be without power and water for weeks as well, the agency warned.

Axios reported the storm — which rapidly intensifed from a Category 1 typhoon to a Category 5 storm in just 24 hours — is also impacting Guam, home of Andersen Air Force Base. Storm surge in Saipan and Rota could get as high as 20 feet above ground on the east side of the islands.

The islands are about 3,700 miles west of Hawaii and about 1,200 miles north of Papua, Indonesia.

Photos credit: National Weather Service Facebook page

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