July 25, 2011

By Bill Jaynes
The Kaselehlie Press

July 18, 2011 Pohnpei, FSM-Though the National Weather Service station in Kolonia reported only a maximum wind gust of 28 miles per hour yesterday localized wind gusts downed trees, toppled utility poles, and launched some Pohnpei roofs skyward.

One confirmed injury occurred on the Nanpohnmal ridge, most likely a result of funneled winds. Mr. Loren Peterson was seriously injured when a large tree fell on his van as he entered the driveway to his own home.

Peterson said that his daughter was leaving the house as he was coming home. He leaned over and rolled down the window to speak to her. He was still leaned over when the tree fell on his vehicle. He was pinned in that position for nearly 45 minutes before rescuers were able to free him.

The main trunk of the tree fell on the rear end of the vehicle completely crushing the rear passenger area.

"If anyone had been in the back of the van they would be dead right now," Peterson said. "This could have been so much worse!"

As it is Peterson was admitted to Genesis Family Medical Clinic with an injury to his spine. He has been referred to the Straub medical facility in Hawaii for treatment and for an MRI scan to be certain that he has no other undiagnosed internal injuries.

Peterson's daughter escaped injury though the car she was driving, her mother's, was heavily damaged.

Earlier that day, a single furious blast of wind lifted the lagoon side of the roof of the three story Pami Building and launched it into the middle of the street.

Parts of the roof landed on a passing SUV.

At least four of Senny's rental cars were damaged and two of those vehicles appeared to be total losses. The flying roof also tore out power lines over the span of at least three blocks and wrenched transformers from their mounts.

Miraculously no one was injured during the calamity as the sharp edged tin roof was propelled through the air.

Only one representative of the Japanese Embassy which occupies the entire third floor of the Pami Building was working inside that afternoon. He said that he didn't hear anything when the roof lifted off and wondered what the crash was outside. He said that he was shocked to see the twisted metal in the street and wondered where it had come from.

In addition to the roof that flew away the Pami Building also has a concrete roof which is still in place.

"We were very lucky. Japan survived another natural disaster," said Genichi Terasawa, Deputy Chief of Mission of the Japanese Embassy yesterday afternoon.

Terasawa said that the Japanese Embassy leases the Pami Building space from the Helgenberger family.

Police closed down the street between the Pohnpei Market and the FSM Development Bank. 30 minutes after the Pami building roof came crashing down in the street Lt. Patrick Carl said that the Helgenberger family was in the process of mobilizing laborers to do the job of clearing the debris.

Feliciano Perman, Pohnpei Utilities Company General Manager was on site at that time and said that PUC line crews had already shut off the power in the area and that crew members would be working that afternoon to repair the downed power lines.

PUC line crews were still working on the lines at 10:00 this morning but the majority of the debris from the roof had been cleared and the road had been reopened by that time.

On Sunday evening, power went down at the College of Micronesia China Friendship gym just fifteen minutes before the visiting art troupe from Guangdong, China was scheduled to give its final performance in Pohnpei. The power outage left hundreds of spectators in the dark. For nearly two hours performers did their best to perform in the dark as members of the Guangdong delegation attempted to light the performances with their cell phones.