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Northern Marianas, Guam Brace For Typhoon Melor

Residents of the Northern Mariana Islands and neighboring Guam braced themselves Saturday as Typhoon Melor churned across the Western Pacific.

In the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the islands of Saipan, Tinian and Agrihan were under a typhoon warning. They were forecast to take the brunt of the storm, with the National Weather Service saying winds of close to 80 mph would cause widespread damage.

Up to 8 inches of torrential rain was possible from the storm, which was expected to hit the islands about 3,700 miles southwest of Hawaii with 12- to 16-foot surf and a storm surge 5 to 8 feet above high tide.

A less severe tropical storm warning was in effect for Rota in the Northern Marianas and for Guam, about 125 miles to the south.

As of Saturday morning, the typhoon with maximum sustained winds of 130 mph was centered 175 miles east-northeast of Saipan, moving west-northwest at 14 mph, the weather service said.

Typhoon force winds of at least 74 mph extended up to 70 miles from the center of the storm, while tropical force winds of 39 mph or higher reached out 260 miles.

Some airlines canceled flights in the Northern Marianas as residents stocked up on emergency supplies as the typhoon headed their way.

The government has opened six shelters on Saipan and one on Tinian. Most government and private sector employees were told to leave work Friday, and many went to board up and stock their homes.

Guam villagers living in tin-and-wood homes were urged to seek refuge in storm shelters.

Yigo Mayor Robert Lizama said residents have had to be rescued from collapsing homes during previous typhoons, so they're being asked to relocate to shelters ahead of time in anticipation of the storm.

Lizama said hundreds of people already have relocated to 12 public schools that have been designated as storm shelters.

The U.S. Coast Guard advised mariners not to leave shore until the storm passes.

Meanwhile, the Federal Emergency Management Agency was standing by with water, more than 90,000 meals, 2,500 cots, 3,800 blankets and 85 power generators already in the Northern Marianas and Guam.

An additional 110,000 meals and more supplies are ready to be shipped from Hawaii to wherever they're needed. Those supplies are also available to help the recovery from the tsunami that hit American Samoa earlier this week.

Federal first responders are already stationed in the threatened islands.

They would complement the more than 245 federal responders already working in American Samoa.