|Typhoon (JMA scale)|
|Category 4 (Saffir–Simpson scale)|
|Formed||August 23, 1992|
|Dissipated||September 9, 1992|
|Highest winds||10-minute sustained: 185 km/h (115 mph)
1-minute sustained: 240 km/h (150 mph)
|Lowest pressure||920 mbar (hPa); 27.17 inHg|
|Damage||$561.2 million (1992 USD)|
|Areas affected||Guam, Philippines, Taiwan, China|
|Part of the 1992 Pacific typhoon season|
Typhoon Omar of 1992, known in the Philippines as Typhoon Lusing, was the strongest and costliest typhoon to strike Guam since Typhoon Pamela in 1976. The system formed on August 23 from the monsoon trough across the western Pacific Ocean while several other storms were active. Moving westward, Omar slowly intensified into a tropical storm, although a nearby system impeded initial strengthening. When the two storms became more distant, Omar quickly intensified into a powerful typhoon, and on August 28 made landfall on Guam with winds of 195 km/h (120 mph). It strengthened further, with estimated 1 minute winds of 240 km/h (150 mph), making it an unofficial "super typhoon".[nb 1] Omar weakened significantly before striking eastern Taiwan on September 4, crossing into eastern China the next day, and dissipating on September 9.
On Guam, Omar caused $457 million in damage (1992 USD) and one death.[nb 2] Strong wind gusts, reaching 248 km/h (154 mph), left nearly the entire island without power for several days. This disrupted the water system and prevented the island-based Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC) from issuing advisories for 11 days. The storm damaged or destroyed 2,158 houses, leaving 3,000 people homeless. In turn, the island's building codes were updated to require withstanding winds of 250 km/h (155 mph), and insurance companies ceased issuing new policies for structures not made of concrete. In the Philippines, the large typhoon wrought ₱903 million ($35.4 million) in losses after damaging or destroying 538 houses, while killing 11 people. Omar later brushed the southern islands of Japan with gusty winds and light rainfall, causing ¥476 million JPY ($3.8 million USD) in crop losses. Heavy rainfall flooded portions of Taiwan, killing three people there and inflicting $65 million in damages, mostly to agriculture.
The origin of Typhoon Omar was from a tropical disturbance exhibiting persistent thunderstorm activity, first noted east of Kiribati on August 20. During this primitive phase, the western Pacific basin saw the dissipation of two tropical cyclones and the extratropical transition of two others, causing the Pacific monsoon trough to realign to a more climatological fashion and thus provide favorable atmospheric conditions over the disturbance. With these conditions set in place, the system intensified, and the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) estimated it to have reached tropical depression intensity at 1800 UTC on August 23.[nb 3] The Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC) analyzed a slower pace of strengthening,[nb 4] issuing a Tropical Cyclone Formation Alert at 2100 UTC before proceeding with advisories on Tropical Depression 15W on August 24, 370 km (230 mi) east-southeast of Guam.
Tracking generally westward, the JTWC upgraded the depression to Tropical Storm Omar on August 25, with the JMA indicating such a change the day after. Omar began to slow as it tracked westward. Although it was fostered in conditions suitable for tropical cyclogenesis, outflow from nearby Tropical Storm Polly sheared the system and slowed intensification. The JTWC noted the possibility that wind shear would decouple the circulation from the convection and weaken Omar further. However, the two storms spread farther apart, allowing a ridge to develop between them. This caused Omar to drift to the north, and it resumed strengthening as the shear decreased. The storm later resumed its west-northwest motion. At 0600 UTC on August 27, the JTWC designated the system as a typhoon, as the storm developed an eye. Omar began to rapidly intensify on August 28, and the JMA classified it as a typhoon. That day, the typhoon made landfall on Guam with maximum sustained winds of roughly 195 km/h (120 mph). The eye slowly crossed the northern portion of the small island over 2.5 hours.
At 1800 UTC on August 29, Omar reached its peak intensity with 10 minute sustained winds estimated at 185 km/h (115 mph) and a minimum barometric pressure of 920 mbar (hPa; 27.17 inHg), both according to the JMA; this intensity was maintained for 24 hours before a steady weakening phase began. However, the JTWC estimated higher 1 minute winds at 240 km/h (150 mph), making Omar a super typhoon. Two days later, the storm came close enough to the Philippines to warrant monitoring activities from PAGASA, who assigned the storm with the local name Lusing. At 1500 UTC on September 3, the JMA considered Omar to have weakened below typhoon intensity, although the JTWC maintained it at that intensity through the following day. Still assuming a generally westward heading, the storm made landfall on the east coast of Taiwan on September 4, near Hualien City. After crossing the island in seven hours, Omar emerged from Yunlin County into the Taiwan Strait. The storm crossed the body of water and made a final landfall near Xiamen, Fujian in eastern China on September 5. Over land, Omar quickly degenerated into a tropical depression before turning to the west-southwest. It moved through southern China as a weak system, dissipating entirely on September 9 over northern Vietnam.
Preparations and impact
Ahead of the storm on August 25, the United States Department of Defense set the Condition of Readiness (COR) at 3 on Guam, meaning destructive winds were possible within 48 hours. A day later, COR 2 was declared, and all United States Navy ships but two were sortied from the harbor to prevent damage. On August 28, COR 1 was declared, the highest level. As a result, all fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters were moved into hangars on the island or transported to Japan or the Philippines, away from the expected path of the storm. Ships faced the same precautionary measures as they were either evacuated to seas southwest of Guam or secured in harbor. United States civil defense ordered the closure of schools for the duration of Omar's passage of Guam. Flights were canceled for at least two days, stranding 5,000 people after the airport closed. About 3,100 people rode out the storm in emergency shelters on the island.
Omar was the strongest and most damaging Guam typhoon since Typhoon Pamela in 1976. The effects of Omar were felt on all parts of the island. Tropical storm force winds affected the island for 16 hours, and wind gusts were estimated to have reached 248 km/h (154 mph) in the western eyewall. However, the winds caused the anemometer at Hagåtña to fail during the eye passage, and the radar was lost at Andersen Air Force Base, preventing an accurate assessment of the strongest winds. The lowest barometric pressure on the island was 940 mbar (28 inHg) at Apra Harbor. The eye's slow movement caused Omar to drop heavy rainfall on Guam, reaching 417 mm (16.41 in) at Andersen AFB. The highest rainfall was 460 mm (18 in) in Taguac. Storm surge from the tropical cyclone occurred concurrently with the August spring tide; and it was lower than initially forecast, the waters inundated portions of the northern Guam coast by 3 m (10 ft).
Damage on Guam was heaviest from the central portion to the northern coast, with many tourism areas affected, as well as heavy damage at military bases. The Naval Computer and Telecommunications Area Master Station on the island was shut down due to power outages and water damage to the generators. The USS Niagara Falls (AFS-3) and USS White Plains (AFS-4)—both naval supply ships—went aground due to the rough seas and strong winds, and the dry dock at Apra Harbor was also washed ashore. Omar destroyed dozens of businesses on the island. High winds knocked a crane onto an apartment building in Tumon. The winds also knocked over 400 wooden and 20 concrete power poles, leaving 70% of the island without power. These winds also disabled transportation and communication systems on Guam, and led to the failure of water pumping systems. Landslides covered roads while low-lying areas were flooded. About 2,000 homes were destroyed and another 2,200 were damaged, displacing nearly 3,000 people. Damage was heaviest to wooden structures, as buildings made of concrete fared well during the storm. The damage inflicted on the island totaled $457 million, split nearly evenly between the military bases and civilian damage. One person died on the island, and there were over 200 injuries necessitating emergency treatment, including over 80 people injured by flying debris.
While Omar was over the open Pacific Ocean, it passed well to the northeast of the Philippines just days after Tropical Storm Polly caused flooding and deaths in the country. The nation's chief weather specialist noted that "[Omar was] more powerful than Polly and it can induce monsoon rains over a wide area." Omar ultimately affected northern Luzon, primarily the Cordillera Administrative Region, Ilocos Region, and the Cagayan Valley. In the area, the typhoon destroyed 393 houses and damaged another 145, affecting 171,603 people, leaving 1,965 people homeless. Damage was estimated at ₱903 million ($35.4 million),[nb 5] much of it to agriculture. Omar killed 11 people in the country.
After its devastating Guam landfall, Omar later struck Taiwan, producing peak winds of 78 km/h (49 mph) in Wuqi District. However, the worst effects were from the heavy rainfall, which peaked at 375.4 mm (14.78 in) in Kaohsiung. Rainfall spread across the entire island, although it was mainly concentrated in southern Taiwan. The rains caused flooding in five counties, while high waves washed ashore four ships in Kaohsiung. Omar left about 766,000 people without power during its passage. The storm heavily damaged crops and fisheries in Yunlin, Chiayi City, Pingtung County, and Kaohsiung. Throughout Taiwan, the typhoon caused over $65 million (USD) in damage. Three people were killed in Taiwan, including two people from the flooding, and another 12 were injured.
The fringes of the typhoon dropped light rainfall in the outer regions of Japan, peaking at 28 mm (1.1 in) on Iriomote-jima. The highest wind gust was 72 km/h (45 mph) on Yonaguni. Omar damaged the sugar cane and okra in the southern Japanese islands, accounting for ¥476 million JPY ($3.8 million USD) in crop damage.[nb 6] In addition, 38 flights were canceled. Later, Omar spread rainfall along its path in southern China. Heavy rainfall caused flooding in northwestern Hong Kong on September 7.
Immediately following the landfall of Omar in Guam, then-governor Joseph Franklin Ada declared a state of emergency, and then-U.S. President George H. W. Bush declared the island a federal disaster area. After the storm, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) opened up Disaster Assistance Centers, where residents were able to apply for federal aid. FEMA ultimately provided about $18.4 million in assistance, including disaster housing, storm-related unemployment benefits, and grant programs for families or businesses, helping over 11,000 people. The federal government paid for 100% of the debris removal, emergency work, and reconstruction of uninsured public buildings, although they usually only provide 75% of the cost for typical disasters. This was due to the sequence of three significant tropical cyclones affecting the United States in three weeks; in addition to Omar, Hurricane Andrew struck Florida in August and Hurricane Iniki hit Hawaii in September. The Department of Defense assisted the affected areas with 27 members of the Guam National Guard and 700 members of the military. The members of the military provided temporary housing, generators, and construction supplies, at a cost of $5.75 million. However, most of the disaster needs were handled by local and the territory government. The local Red Cross provided $6 million in assistance after the storm. Due to the combined damages from Andrew, Iniki, and Omar, the United States Congress passed the Dire Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act, 1992, which provided additional funding for the agencies responding to the disasters through the end of the fiscal year ending on September 30.
For 11 days, the JTWC on Guam was unable to continue operations, and had to rely on a backup agency. In addition, the airport's damaged radar prompted the NEXRAD to be installed earlier than scheduled in February 1993, and limited incoming and outgoing flights to the daytime. On August 30, a naval ship docked at Apra Harbor to provide a temporary mobile radar. By September 15, both ships that were washed ashore were refloated. Following the storm, insurance companies decided to stop issuing new policies for structures not made of concrete. Also due to the storm, then-governor Carl Gutierrez issued an executive order in January 1996 for the island, mandating that homes or storm shutters withstand winds of at least 250 m/h (155 mph).
There were reports of looting on the island after the storm, with some looters arrested. The homeless residents on Guam were forced to reside in a tent city comprised of 200 tents, holding more than 1,000 people on federal land and nicknamed Camp Omar. Within weeks, volunteers and military efforts cleaned the debris on the island. Most main roads were reopened by three days after the storm striking. The power was restored island-wide within four weeks, disrupting schools and businesses, although water access was expected to be restored within a few days of the storm. Schools reopened on September 14, and most businesses were reopened by the end of September. The United States military ceased operations related to the aftermath of Omar on September 19. However, complete recovery was disrupted by the passage of several subsequent typhoons. Later typhoons in the season caused less damage than normal after Omar wrecked most weaker vulnerable structures; for example, it became difficult to discern the damage between Omar and Typhoon Gay in December 1992. A subsequent survey found that 7.2% of 320 participants affected by Omar developed acute stress reaction, and another 15% developed early traumatic stress response, especially those affected by the later typhoons. About 5.9% of the participants displayed symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder, similar to the levels shown after Hurricane Hugo in 1989.
- Wind estimates averaged over one minute wind estimates are derived from the unofficial Joint Typhoon Warning Center. Winds averaged over ten minutes are derived from the Japan Meteorological Agency.
- All damage totals are in 1992 values of their respective currencies.
- The Japan Meteorological Agency is the official Regional Specialized Meteorological Center for the western Pacific Ocean.
- The Joint Typhoon Warning Center is a joint United States Navy – United States Air Force task force that issues tropical cyclone warnings for the western Pacific Ocean and other regions. At the time, the agency was based out of Hagåtña, Guam.
- The total was originally reported in Philippine pesos. Total converted via the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.
- The total was originally reported in Japanese yen. Total converted via the Oanda Corporation website.
- Natural Disasters in Philippines (Period, Type) (1901-2000) (PDF) (Report). Asian Disaster Reduction Center. August 2002. p. 12. Retrieved 2015-04-05.
- 1992 Annual Tropical Cyclone Report (PDF) (Report). Hagatna, Guam: Joint Typhoon Warning Center. pp. 80–87. Retrieved 2014-07-07.
- "Latest Advisories on Current Tropical Cyclones Hurricanes Typhoons". World Meteorological Organization. Retrieved 2015-08-18.
- "RSMC Best Track Data" (TXT). Tokyo, Japan: Japan Meteorological Agency. 1992-12-25. Retrieved 2014-07-07.
- "Storm Data and Unusual Weather Phenomena with Late Reports and Corrections" 34 (9). National Climatic Data Center. September 1992. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2015-04-01.
- "Tropical Cyclones In 1992" (PDF). Kowloon, Hong Kong: Royal Hong Kong Observatory. September 1994. pp. 14–15. Retrieved 2014-07-08.
- 1992 年歐馬(OMAR)颱風 (PDF) (Report) (in Chinese). Central Weather Bureau. Retrieved 2015-04-05.
- "Tropical storm heads for Guam". The Free-Lance Star 108 (202) (Hagåtña, Guam). Associated Press. 1992-08-26. p. A2. Retrieved 2014-07-08.
- "Tropical Storm Moves Closer To Guam". Hagåtña, Guam. Associated Press. 1992-08-26. Retrieved 2014-07-08.
- "After the Storm; Thousands on Guam Lose Homes in Typhoon". New York Times. 1992-08-30. Retrieved 2015-04-01.
- "Guam typhoon mop up begins". The Prescott Courier. 1992-08-31. Retrieved 2015-04-03.
- "Federal Assistance To Typhoon-Stricken Guam". San Francisco, California. PR Newswire. 1992-08-28.
- "Guam Hit Hard by Typhoon Omar". Times Daily. Associated Press. 1992-08-29. Retrieved 2014-04-01.
- National Security and International Affairs Division (1993-06-23). DOD's Support for Hurricanes Andrew and Iniki and Typhoon Omar (PDF) (Report). General Accounting Office. Retrieved 2015-04-01.
- "A Month After Typhoon Omar, Residents of Guam Rebuilding". Star News. Associated Press. 1992-09-20. Retrieved 2015-04-03.
- "Typhoon Omar Pummels Guam". The Telegraph. Associated Press. 1992-08-28. Retrieved 2015-04-03.
- "Typhoon Omar Roars Closer to the Philippines". New Straits Times. 1992-09-03. Retrieved 2015-04-05.
- "Destructive Typhoons 1970-2003: Lusing". National Disaster Coordinating Council. 2004-11-09. Retrieved 2015-04-05.
- "Exchange Rates > Philippine Peso per US Dollar for 1992-2014". Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas. Retrieved 2015-04-05.
- "本颱風摘要" (in Chinese). Central Weather Bureau. Retrieved 2015-04-06.
- Digital Typhoon. Typhoon 199215 (Omar) (Report). National Institute of Informatics. Retrieved 2015-04-01.
- "Historical Exchange Rates". Oanda Corporation. 2013. Retrieved 2013-10-18.
- Digital Typhoon. Weather Disaster Report (1992-918-05) (Report). National Institute of Informatics. Retrieved 2015-04-01.
- "Typhoon Omar Devastates Guam". The Spokesman-Review. 1992-08-29. Retrieved 2015-04-03.
- "Bush declares Guam federal disaster area". Washington, D.C. United Press International. 1992-08-28.
- Charles Guard; Michael Hamnett; Charles Newmann; Mark Lander; H. Galt Siegrist, Jr. (February 1999). Typhoon Vulnerability Study for Guam (PDF) (Report). Water and Environmental Research Institute of the Western Pacific. Retrieved 2015-04-02.
- Dire Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act, 1992, Including Disaster Assistance To Meet the Present Emergencies Arising From the Consequences of Hurricane Andrew, Typhoon Omar, Hurricane Iniki, and Other Natural Disasters, and Additional Assistance to Distressed Communities (Report). One Hundred Second Congress of the United States of America. 1992-09-23. Retrieved 2015-04-03.
- Carl Gutierrez (1996-01-11). Executive Order No. 96-01 (PDF) (Report). Officer of the Governor of the Territory of Guam. Retrieved 2015-04-02.
- Jeffrey P. Staab; Thomas A. Grieger; Carol S. Fullerton; Robert J. Ursano (1996). Acute stress disorder, subsequent posttraumatic stress disorder and depression after a series of typhoons (Report). doi:10.1002/(SICI)1522-7154(1996)2:5<219::AID-ANXI3>3.0.CO;2-H.
- Xiaotu Lei and Xiao Zhou (Shanghai Typhoon Institute of China Meteorological Administration) (February 2012). "Summary of Retired Typhoons in the Western North Pacific Ocean" (PDF). Tropical Cyclone Research And Review 1 (1): 23–32. doi:10.6057/2012TCRR01.03. Retrieved 2014-07-07.