Residents of Guam should be making final preparations as strengthening Typhoon Dolphin will pass near the island on Friday.
The center of Dolphin is expected to track to the north of Guam, possibly crossing over the island of Rota on Friday, local time. Its strength will be equal to that of a Category 3 hurricane, potentially even approaching Category 4 hurricane status.
Guam and the neighboring Northern Mariana Islands should prepare for destructive winds, torrential rainfall and extremely dangerous surf. Conditions will deteriorate Thursday night with the worst of the storm unleashing its fury on Friday.
Communities in the path of Dolphin’s eyewall-where a typhoon’s strongest winds occur-will be subject to periods of sustained winds of 130 km/h (80 mph) to as high as 195 km/h (120 mph) at the eastern coast and in the highest terrain, with locally higher gusts.
The extent of the damage will depend on Dolphin’s exact track which is now expected to be closer to Rota than Guam.
“If Dolphin misses one of these islands by even 80 km (50 miles) to the north or south, [the wind] impacts will be less because the core of the strongest wind is small,” stated AccuWeather.com Meteorologist Adam Douty.
Regardless of exact track, Dolphin will bring dangerous conditions to Guam as well as the islands of Rota, Aguijan, Tinian and Saipan. All these islands can expect damaging winds and torrential rainfall.
“Even with a direct hit from Dolphin, these islands are fairly well prepared for impacts from tropical systems, so this will help to mitigate impacts,” Douty continued.
Regardless, residents should still prepare for the winds to cause destruction, widespread tree damage and power outages. Flying debris during the height of the storm can claim lives.
In addition, torrential rain on the order of 150 to 300 mm (6 to 12 inches) threatens to cause flooding. Seas east of the islands will build to dangerous levels of 6 to 9 meters (20 to 30 feet) as Dolphin approaches. Beaches on the same side of the islands, near and north of Dolphin’s center, will face a storm surge of 1 to 2.5 meters (4 to 8 feet).
As Dolphin crosses the islands, seas will become increasingly rough and dangerous to the west before gradually subsiding this weekend.
Guam gets threatened and impacted by typhoons frequently but it is unusual for the island to suffer a direct hit. Similar to Bermuda in the Atlantic, Guam is a small target for a typhoon in the vast Pacific Ocean. The odds of a typhoon’s eyewall passing over the island are low.
“The most recent direct hit [by a typhoon on Guam] was Super Typhoon Pongsona in 2002,” stated AccuWeather.com Senior Meteorologist Jason Nicholls. “Interestingly, Typhoon Chataan came very close to making a direct hit on Guam in 2002 as well.”
“Pongsona was the third strongest typhoon to hit Guam behind a storm in 1900 and Typhoon Karen in 1962,” Nicholls added.
After departing Guam, Dolphin will continue strengthening as it moves over the open waters east of the Philippines and south of Japan this weekend. During this time, it is likely that Dolphin could achieve super typhoon status with sustained winds over 240 km/h (150 mph).
A dip in the jet stream that will move from eastern Asia into Japan will then lift Dolphin northward early next week, keeping the cyclone away from the Philippines, where former Super Typhoon Noul lashed northeastern Luzon this past weekend.
Dolphin should also get steered to the northeast away from Japan next week, but AccuWeather.com meteorologists will be monitoring the potential for some of its moisture to get drawn northward, interact with a frontal boundary and lead to enhanced rainfall across Japan.