Earth’s most powerful storm of the year roars across Pacific
The Earth’s most powerful storm of 2015 — Super Typhoon Soudelor — is now roaring through the western Pacific Ocean with winds of 178 mph, the equivalent of a Category 5 hurricane, the Joint Typhoon Warning Center said Monday.
The storm already ripped into Saipan, one of the Northern Mariana Islands, a 48,000-population U.S. commonwealth in the Western Pacific. Acting Gov. Ralph D.L.G. Torres declared “a state of disaster and significant emergency” there on Monday.
Soudelor (SOW-de-lore) is the strongest storm anywhere on the planet so far this year. Typhoons are the Western Pacific’s version of hurricanes.
The typhoon is taking aim at Taiwan and China by Friday and Saturday, though it is expected to weaken to a Category 3 or 4 storm by then, the typhoon warning center said.
The storm slammed into Saipan late Sunday into early Monday, flooding the island’s power plant, ripping off roofs and toppling power poles, the Pacific Daily News in Guam reported. Hundreds of Saipan residents are in shelters. Some roads remain impassable, and power and water service are out.
“I’ve seen multiple primary power poles down. I’ve seen cars flipped over the road. I’ve seen lots of torn roofs,” said John Hirsh, executive director of the American Red Cross in Saipan.
He said an initial assessment shows extensive damage across the island. Hirsch said it felt as if the island took a direct hit from the typhoon’s full force between 11 p.m. Sunday to 1 a.m. Monday, local time.
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