Dear Alvino, 12/17/97
Thanks for your email today. We are all fine, and Supertyphoon Paka is on its way out. Although we lost power for the better part of 3 days, we were not hit as hard as we have with other typhoons, such as Keith, which left the island a disaster area. This storm apparently went very close to the north end of Guam, and only came within about 105 miles of Saipan. We had anincredible amount of rain today, for here, and some pretty strong winds, but never felt like it was a dangerous storm for us. I boarded up the house on Monday night. It takes about an hour and one half, working alone, to get all the windows covered. The trick is to finish before the winds pick up, because a stiff gust on a 4' x 8' sheet of plywood could land me in the Philippines. As a result of the boarding and the slower winds (probably only up to 50 mph or so), we had much less water come into the house than we did with Keith, when we mopped up constantly over a 24 hour period. I do not believe we had any significant damage, probably because everything that was capable of blowing away did so during one of the previous storms this year. They say typhoon season usually lasts from August to December, but the unusual weather patterns associated with El Nino have lengthened the expected season. Ordinarily, they would expect the season to be done by now. Who knows? There is another system brewing south of Pohnpei .... The forecasters have been saying that El Nino is likely to result in a severe drought next summer, especially in Guam, so we needed the rain to keep the aquifer topped off.
Not much new to report here, except for the daily watch for the weather have been doing some snorkeling lately, around some of the coral heads out in the reef. There are wonderfully colored fish - yellows, blues of all shades, greens, and a few starfish of the brightest blue you can imagine, and about 12" across.
It is now Saturday - the earlier message got interrupted by the fact that it was late when I started it, and then the power went off intermittently for the next few days. The typhoon boards are now off the house, it is light inside, and things have returned to normal. It is hard to feel like Christmas is just around the corner - we have 80s during the day, 70s at night. The only mall we have here had a "lighting of the lights" celebration a couple of weeks ago, where various business managers, airline execs, and similarly employed tourism-related persons gathered around a large globe-shaped object placed in the center of the mall courtyard. The globe was intended to be a big electrical switch, and was mounted on a big square base. On the count of three, everyone pressed on the globe, and, presto! the Christmas lights went on! Of course, Santa and Ms. Clause were there for the kids. Santa appeared as we expect, but Ms. Clause, although dressed in the customary red suit with white trim, wore short sleeves and appeared suspiciously Chamorro. To top off the seasonal celebration, the holiday festivities were then celebrated with - - a magic show! It rained in the middle of the act, which sent everyone scrambling for cover briefly, but after the squall was over, the evening proceeded as planned, although in slightly more soggy fashion. They have decorated long stretches of road with tiny lights on the bases of the palm trees - the total effect is very pretty.
Hope you all have a wonderful Christmas. as I'm sure we will. The kids are as excited as ever. We have a small tree set up in the living room, and Margaret packed a selection of our favorite ornaments when we came here. The stockings are hung and ready for Christmas eve. I have arranged for a couple of days off during the holidays, as I usually do, in order to have more time with the kids when they are on vacation. I believe by now they have adjusted to our new circumstances, and have settled into a routine. Give our love to Liene and the teenager.
The Typhoon Troubadour, KAL