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World

Super Typhoon Hits The Northern Mariana Islands

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

A super typhoon named Yutu blasted across the U.S. commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands today. Devastating winds tore off roofs and leveled small buildings. Now, there have been no reports of deaths on the Pacific island chain, but the National Weather Service called Yutu the strongest storm to hit any part of the United States this year. And we have more now from NPR's Julie McCarthy in Manila.

JULIE MCCARTHY, BYLINE: Residents described the winds that howled over the Northern Marianas as horrifying.

(SOUNDBITE OF WIND)

MCCARTHY: Debris became shrapnel with Yutu's wind speeds sustaining 180 mph according to satellite readings. That's well in excess of any hurricane that has struck the United States this year.

MICHAEL ZIOBRO: Any kind of winds that high would probably be definitely catastrophic no matter where they went.

MCCARTHY: That's meteorologist Michael Ziobro with the National Weather Service. Yutu is being compared to Typhoon Mangkhut that raged through the Philippines last month. Ziobro says the intensity of Yutu was so great that the wind instruments gave out.

Along with Guam, the Marianas are the westernmost territories of the United States. With a population of 54,000, the Marianas lie about 600 miles east of the Philippines. Under gray skies, residents of the typhoon-torn islands can be seen on social media today sifting through what is left of their homes, searching for their belongings. The storm's eye crossed directly over Tinian Island and scraped Saipan, the largest in the chain of 14 volcanic islands. The mayor of Tinian, Joey Patrick San Nicolas, assessed the damage.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JOEY PATRICK SAN NICOLAS: We are still without power, and we are still without water. The lights that you see in here are actually plugged into a generator.

MCCARTHY: Some residents expected outages to last weeks. The mayor said the power plant has been compromised and the distribution system completely destroyed.

Julie McCarthy, NPR News, Manila.

(SOUNDBITE OF JULIA KENT'S "LAST DAY IN JULY") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.