The worst U.S. typhoon since 1935 struck the territory of Saipan Oct. 24, causing destruction and directly impacting Oklahoma Christian alumni living on the island.
According to the Columbia Journalism Review, not a single U.S. news crew traveled to Saipan to cover the typhoon. Junior Adele Hudkins grew up in Saipan and her family continues to reside there. She refers to her home country as a “hidden gem,” and said she felt helpless when the typhoon struck.
“What’s sad is that not a lot of people know about it, but it is a U.S. territory,” Hudkins said. “If it was Texas, people would be like, ‘Pray for Texas.’ It’s just frustrating that not a lot of people know about it. If it was talked about on the news, it was brief. It is very frustrating to family and friends back home, especially the ones that grew up in the mainland.”
Two weeks since the typhoon, Hudkins’ immediate family is safe. Hudkins’ sister, Oklahoma Christian alumna Abigail Parker, took shelter in her parent’s concrete home with her husband during the typhoon. With walls torn down, clothes in trees and a fridge on top of their car, Hudkins said her aunt and uncle’s home experienced the worst damage in her family.
“The typhoon wasn’t that scary until around 1 a.m.,” Parker said. “That’s when the eyewall hit land. The pressure from the windows was making my ears pop. I thought for sure they were going to break, but they didn’t at my mom’s house. Many other homes had broken windows. Jake and I just sat in the dark and watched the trees swaying and bending. We could hear some of the trees in the backyard actually snap in half.”
More than 1,000 Saipan citizens are still homeless in the wake of the typhoon and resources are limited. According to Hudkins, family members have had to wait in five-hour lines to do laundry and three-hour lines to get gas.
“In Saipan, a lot of homes have water tanks that collect rainwater so that’s what we’ve been using,” Abigail said. “My husband has been working 12-plus hour days working at the utility corporation to try to restore the water on the island. For now, people can go to well sites and fill drums of water to bring home to use to shower if need be. I believe there are about 1000-plus people living in shelters. That really scares me because of the lack of running water.”
According to Abigail, one of the best things Oklahoma Christian students can do is to keep the people of Saipan in their prayers.
“There’s not much a small community at OC can do, but there are bigger people we can reach out to that can make a difference,” Abigail said. “Care packages with relief goods like old clothing, household supplies, flashlights, bug spray, etc. are always welcome.”
Parker said she also believes climate change plays a role in amplified natural disasters such as this one.
“This super typhoon was able to get as big as it did because the water was so warm,” Parker said. “I do believe global warming is real. It may not be affecting Oklahoma as much, but it sure is affecting the islands. Please think about us the next time you have the option to recycle, use less plastic or do anything else that affects the environment. We can all make a difference.”
After anxiously hearing news of the typhoon miles away, Hudkins said she is grateful her family survived and is safe.
“It’s just nice to see my family together after all that,” Hudkins said. “I’m just thanking God that they are alive. Most of us think materialistic things are important, but when it comes to life or death situations, you see what’s important.”