Friday, November 11, 2011


November 11, 1962

95% of the island's homes damaged or destroyed
Karen's Path of Destruction

The worst typhoon to hit Guam, up till that time, since after World War II was Typhoon Karen.  It hit Guam around 9pm on Sunday, November 11, 1962, striking the southeastern coast first.  Thankfully, the speed of the typhoon actually picked up to about 18mph so its unusually fierce winds (sustained 150mph-175mph; gusts up to 200mph) would not do even more harm.  The eye (there were actually two eyes) passed around 9:45pm.  People knew, even in the darkness, that it was a bad typhoon, as they saw their very roofs rip off, walls come crashing in, water pour into rooms.  Only till the light of the new day were people able to see the horrific disaster.

Due to its location, just north of the path of the storm, Yoña was the hardest hit of the villages; about 97% of its homes and buildings destroyed.  The roof at Saint Francis Church went flying, as can be seen above, damaging the interior, including the paintings of the Life of Saint Francis series that lined both sides of the nave, painted by Capuchin Father Marcian.

For more on the typhoon, check out

Black and White video clip of the aftermath of Typhoon Karen

Guam Changed Forever

Because of the immense devastation wrought by Typhoon Karen, the local government created a brand-new agency, the Guam Housing and Urban Renewal Authority (GHURA).  With federal funds, Urban Renewal was brought to two villages which opted for it : Yoña and Sinajaña.  This began the trend, "cemented" by further typhoons, of turning the whole island into a concrete jungle.

Before Typhoon Karen...

Typical house, on stilts, to cool things down

After Typhoon Karen...

Typical house, a concrete fortress, or oven if there's no AC
A personal note
I was just about 8 months old when Typhoon Karen struck.  We lived in a two-storey residence in Sinajaña, the ground floor being made of concrete, where we lived, with two separate apartments on the second floor, made of wooden walls and a tin roof, which were rented out.  Parts of the roof flew and the whole building was drenched.  According to my mother, at some point, when the winds were really bad, she hid me in the fridge.  I've had a weight problem ever since.

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