May 15, 2015 6:35 AM

Center of Pacific typhoon passing near Guam

The Associated Press

HAGATNA, Guam (AP) Winds from a powerful Pacific typhoon were hitting the region around U.S. territory of Guam late Friday night.

The National Weather Service said the center of Typhoon Dolphin was passing through a 50-mile-wide channel near Guam.

"The eye of Dolphin is now in the Rota Channel between Guam and Rota ... and is moving at 10 mph," the weather service said on its website.

The weather service said at 7 p.m. (2 a.m. PDT) that Typhoon-force winds of at least 74 mph were expected in the region. The storm was packing maximum winds of 110 mph.

There have been no reports of any injury or damage.

Earlier in the evening, senior meteorologist Mike Middlebrooke predicted northern Guam would be hit.

"A heavy band is moving across the island and the eye will hit northern Guam," he told The Associated Press.

He said that parts of the island were experiencing the storm's powerful winds.

Steady rains and strong winds buffeted the island for several hours Friday.

Residents of this island of about 160,000 people have been bracing for potentially damaging winds and flooding for the past day.

Five public schools are serving as emergency shelters for 748 residents. Twenty-four pregnant women have checked-in to Guam Memorial Hospital, according to Gov. Eddie Calvo's office.

Residents began seriously preparing for the typhoon Thursday when Calvo ordered agencies to take special precautions.

That set off longer lines at service stations and increased sales of bottled water.

Dayann Henry, 28, and 15 family members sought refuge in an emergency shelter at George Washington High School in central Guam.

"When they said the typhoon is going to be big, we went to the mayor and asked for help. The mayor brought us here," said Henry, who lives in a wood and tin-framed house.

Charleen Betwell, 30, also checked in at George Washington with several family members.

"I've been through typhoons, but this is my first time in a shelter," she said. "I'm just enjoying looking at the kids play around. It's good they're not scared."

Anton Edward, 52, owner of a video store that was open at midday Friday as winds were picking up, said he hadn't prepared.

"The other businesses and residents are geared up for the storm, but not me. We're looking at the winds. I don't know if we'll be open the whole day," he said.

Earlier in the day, Guam was getting some surf, with a beach on the eastern coast reporting 16-foot waves.

National Weather Service meteorologist Genny Miller said the agencies will likely maintain high-surf advisories for 24 hours after the typhoon passes.

Some airlines canceled flights scheduled to arrive or depart Guam on Friday.

Authorities have warned residents in low-lying areas to be on the lookout for flooding and to move to higher ground if necessary.

Officials say no one except public safety and emergency response personnel should be outdoors after 5 a.m. Friday.

Typhoons are the same as hurricanes and cyclones. Distinctive terms for the storms are used in different parts of the world.

Tropical weather frequently affects Guam, so much so U.S. military officers like to say it's located in "Typhoon Alley." Two typhoons and one tropical storm have affected Guam in the past eight months, including Dolphin.

But the island rarely gets direct hits from typhoons because its land area is so small. The last direct hit was in 2002, when a super typhoon, Pongsona, killed one and caused about $250 million in damage.

There are two U.S. military bases in Guam, Andersen Air Force Base and Naval Base Guam. Both were closed Friday to everyone except for essential personnel.

A Navy telephone hotline message warned people not to drive and to avoid going outside. There are about 4,000 sailors assigned to Guam along with 6,500 dependents.

A typhoon preparation guide on Andersen's website notes Navy and Air Force housing on Guam is constructed with reinforced concrete, enabling them to withstand high typhoon winds. The site encourages people to check their storm shutters ahead of time to make sure they are working and to stay inside.

The Air Force says more than 5,000 airmen and their family members live on Guam.

Guam and neighboring Rota, a tiny island 50 miles away, are part of the Mariana Islands chain and share a common heritage and native language. Rota has about 2,500 residents and many buildings there are made of concrete.

Guam is a tropical island about 1,500 miles south of Tokyo and is known for scuba diving, white beaches and historic World War II battle sites, and it depends heavily on tourism.


Associated Press writer Audrey McAvoy in Honolulu contributed to this report.


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