Supertyphoon Yutu has absolutely wrecked the Northern Mariana Islands:
One of the most powerful storms of the year—packing sustained winds up to 180 miles an hour—roared through U.S. territories in the western Pacific, smashing homes and flattening power lines.
Supertyphoon Yutu struck Tinian and Saipan in the Northern Mariana Islands in the early hours Thursday, local time. No deaths were reported, but the region’s Homeland Security and Emergency Management agency warned residents to remain indoors as the “extremely dangerous” storm hit, triggering flash flooding.
Ashley Beck, a 27-year-old teacher on Saipan, said she had driven around the island Thursday morning to check the damage. “This was like a huge, super-crazy weather event that’s all but destroyed the island,” she said. “I know very few people who haven’t sustained damage so bad that it makes their houses almost uninhabitable. I don’t know how my students are.”
Ms. Beck said no power lines were left standing along huge stretches of road and electricity wires were down and in some areas hanging in floodwaters. “Where there was just beautiful verdant jungle, all the palms are stripped. There are cars flipped over and trees smashed on them,” she said.
Images circulated Thursday on social media showed widespread damage with roofs peeled off buildings and cars smashed under rubble. At a local airport, light aircraft had been blown through a perimeter fence. Almost 20,000 homes were likely to have been damaged by powerful winds, the humanitarian website ReliefWeb estimated in an alert notice.
In a lot of ways, the level of destruction is going to be even worse than Puerto Rico. The storm is much stronger than Hurricane Maria was when it struck Puerto Rico. The damage to the Northern Marianas will probably look similar to that of Dominica which was also hit by Hurricane Maria and saw most structures on the island damaged or destroyed.
However, I don’t expect the media response to be nearly as hysterical as it was when Puerto Rico was hit by Maria, because the Northern Mariana Islands are a lot smaller (meaning less potential voters) and the island seems more pro-Republican than Puerto Rico is. You can expect the media to forget this story by next week.