Satellite imagery shows Tinian Island, part of the Northern Mariana Islands, as the eye of Super Typhoon Yutu passes over. Image by NOAA
Oct. 25 (UPI) -- Islands in the Pacific Ocean, including U.S. territory, were slammed Wednesday by the most powerful storm of the year so far -- Super Typhoon Yutu.
The storm, which forecasters said was the equivalent of a Category 5 hurricane, destroyed homes and cut power and water service to thousands of residents in the Northern Mariana Islands, a U.S. territory. Yutu, the strongest storm on record to hit the Northern Mariana Islands, is now heading northwest toward the Philippines and Taiwan.
Meteorologists recorded maximum sustained winds of 180 mph from Yutu, which started as a tropical storm on Sunday.
"Tinian has been devastated by Typhoon Yutu," Tinian Mayor Joey Patrick San Nicolas said in a video on Facebook. "Many homes have been destroyed, our critical infrastructure has been compromised. We currently have no power and water at this time."
Some parts of the island were inaccessible, but crews are using heavy machinery to clear debris.
Gerald Deleon, special assistant for the Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, called Yutu the worst storm he's ever experienced.
"Weather conditions remain hazardous. Our focus is on deploying resources to clear our roadways so first responders can begin assisting who have lost their homes and for those who need transport to seek medical attention or transportation to the nearest shelter," Guerrero said. "HSEM really needs the cooperation of the general public on this one."
The storm is about 95 west-northwest of Tinian and 100 miles west-northwest of Saipan, forecasters said. Typhoon-force winds extend outward from the center up to 75 miles and tropical storm-force gusts up to 240 miles. Experts said Tinian and Saipan will continue to experience strong winds early Thursday.
A tropical storm warning is in effect for Guam, another U.S. territory.