HONOLULU – As Typhoon Mawar aimed its fury at Guam, residents facing terrifying winds and crashing waves from the strongest typhoon to hit the U.S. Pacific territory in decades had identical twin meteorologists to keep them informed — and to provide the outside world with a glimpse of the chaos unfolding on the remote island.
The National Weather Service's Guam office employs Landon Aydlett as its warning coordination meteorologist. His brother Brandon Aydlett is the science and operations officer.
Together, the 41-year-olds tag-teamed Facebook Live broadcasts watched by thousands as Typhoon Mawar approached with maximum sustained winds of 140 mph (225 kph), wreaking havoc as residents lost power, internet and water service.
Their colorful descriptions of the Category 4 storm painted a picture as they both took turns describing trees snapped like toothpicks, thrashing winds, nearly 2 feet (0.6 meters) of torrential rain and “whiteout conditions" outside the office where they holed up with other colleagues for nearly 48 hours.
“Reassure your children. It’s going to be a little bit scary as we go later into the night," Brandon Aydlett said in a Facebook Live update as the island was in the throes of the typhoon on Wednesday. “You can hear the sounds: The winds are howling, things are breaking. Just be together, talk to each other and things will slow down toward midnight and continuing into Thursday morning.”
Earlier, his brother explained to viewers of another live update that the weather was about to get worse.
“We’re starting to hear the low rumbles in the building here at the National Weather Service," Landon Aydlett said. “Our doors are rattling. We hear little whistles through the windows, little cracks in the doors. We’re getting those effects here as we’re nearing typhoon force conditions.”
He told The Associated Press in a brief telephone interview Thursday morning local time that working with his brother is like working with his best friend. They never planned to work together, he said.
“But the jobs fell in our laps, and we followed our heart and our passion for the work," Aydlett said. “And somehow we both ended up in Guam.”
The brothers are from Elizabeth City, North Carolina, a small farming town in the Outer Banks about an hour south of Norfolk, Virginia. Brandon Aydlett came to Guam first, more than 13 years ago, and his brother arrived a half-year later.
The brothers like to go hiking and paddleboarding. Brandon Aydlett enjoys running. Landon Aydlett — who at Thursday's final briefing sported a necklace of small white shells gifted to him after a 2018 typhoon — prefers to lift weights. Last year they broke two Guinness world records by building the world’s largest and tallest toy timber tower as part of a Habitat for Humanity fundraiser. The “Tower for Humanity” raised $20,000 for the Guam chapter of the charity.
Landon Aydlett said he's heard about spouses working together in National Weather Service offices, but never about other twins.
Guam is an island of about 150,000 people about 3,900 miles (6,275 kilometers) west of Hawaii and 1,600 miles (2,600 kilometers) east of Manila, the capital of the Philippines.
The weather service office issues forecasts for Guam as well as several islands to the north — Saipan, Tinian and Rota — that are part of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, another U.S. territory. The Guam office also forecasts weather for the nearby independent Pacific island nations of the Marshall Islands, Micronesia and Palau.
On Thursday, in their final live update as the storm began to subside, they kept passing the informational baton back and forth. It would be their last update from Guam, Landon Aydlett said, after nearly 48 hours together in the forecasting office.
“I don’t know what my house is looking like right now," he said. “I’ll find out very soon, but we will ride it out together. We are one Guam. We are one Marianas. Stay sheltered and stay safe.”