Tales of a Transplant: Sandy, please

By Ryan Galindo, Staff Writer
@rygalindo

Living in Guam does have its pros and cons. One con: Guam is situated in an area of the Pacific called “Typhoon Alley.” As you may already have guessed, typhoons (a fancy, exotic word for hurricane) pop up regularly and somehow decide to make Guam a part of their blood path.

Typhoon, Guam

Downed power lines in Guam during Ponsoonga Typhoon / PHOTO COURTESY RODGER SPRINGSTEEN

I’ve had my share of typhoons in my 18 years of life. The first one was good ol’ Typhoon Paka in 1997. I was only three-years-old, and I barely remember the details of the disaster. I do recall a few vague, cloudy snippets of the storm: the power outages, the fallen trees and my mom trying to put me to sleep against the backdrop of the pouring rain and howling, Category 5 winds. Like I said, I don’t remember much, but I knew it was bad, so bad that Paka was even upgraded to Super Typhoon status and the name “Paka” was retired from the list of hurricane names. I didn’t even know that was remotely possible.

In 2002, we had Super Typhoon Chata’an. In Chamorro, the native language of Guam, Chata’an means “rainy day.” And boy was that day rainy. Hell, it was a torrential downpour. I don’t remember much of Chata’an except that it ruined my summer.

A year and a half later, in December 2003, we had Super Typhoon Pongsona (pronounced PONG-SONG-WAH). Pongsona was nothing short of a bitch. It flooded streets and downed power and telephone poles. Guam was devastated. Oh, and Ponsonga had the audacity to prance its way into Guam a few weeks before Christmas. The nerve.

We didn’t have electricity for almost a month, if not more. It was a really big deal, actually, so big that the daily newspaper had a little box on the front page detailing how much of the island had its power back and which part of the island the power company was working to repair next. With each passing day, the percentage enclosed in the box increased: 12 percent, 20 percent, 45 percent and eventually 100 percent. Luckily, my neck of the woods was one of the first to have electricity reinstalled, so that was great.

Water was also a problem. If I remember correctly (I’m writing this all from memory okay, so if any of you Guamies notice anything wrong, forgive me), there was a water outage, too. And if you did have water, it was probably unsafe to drink it.

Ponsonga is the last typhoon I can recall because it was so catastrophic. If there were any other typhoons after it, they were probably too tame compared to Ponsonga to be worth remembering.

Guam has been typhoon-free for several years. And that is why I find it ironic that once I leave Guam and move to Boston, I get struck by Hurricane Sandy.

Last night, I was chatting with a friend from Guam that now attends school in Portland, Ore. Of course, Sandy made its way to the conversation and my friend told me not to worry, because I’m from Guam and therefore typhoon-proof.

Paka Typhoon

Damage to a home in Guam during the Paka Typhoon, Dec. 17, 1997 / PHOTO COURTESY PETTY OFFICER 3RD CLASS HEATHER EGHBALI, U.S. NAVY

In retrospect, I guess I am. This is the plus side of living in typhoon alley. Almost instinctively upon hearing about Sandy, I began to gather all the essentials in case of a disaster. I got my cereal and other snacks tucked in my shelf along with a couple of toiletries. I’ve been keeping track of Sandy and any pertinent news relating to school and the T.

It’s actually quite amusing to hear my friends from California and other parts of the hurricane-free world panic about the storm, and I’m just calm and nonchalant about it.

In the end, I’m very grateful that sunlight is starting to seep its way into Boston and that Sandy is starting to become a memory. My thoughts go out to those who have been ravaged by her. I’ve been there before, and it’ll soon pass.

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