Typhoons is Serious Business: My First Typhoon in HK

Summer in Hong Kong, which is generally from late May to late September (now) is also typhoon season.  Somehow I’ve been lucky during my stay and there has been much less rain than it ordinarily is.   I’ve experienced some drizzles or the very frequent off-and-on rain, but nothing serious.

During orientation, we were given a fair warning about typhoons, even being shown a video clip of a young woman getting pushed around the sidewalk by a wind-swept garbage bin.  Also, we were told that classes would be cancelled whenever there are wind gale signals of 8 or rainstorm signals in the black.  What that meant, I would have no idea — and having barely ever been able to celebrate a snow day in New York, for which there is no formal signal system, I did not take this part of our orientation seriously.

Last week I experienced my first T-signal.  In the lobby of my building was a little sign informing us that there was a T-3 flag up today.  There was simply some light rain, nothing exciting.  This experience did not support the seriousness of the weather signal system here in HK.  I’d also seen Amber rainstorm signals, and found it an over-reaction.

Yesterday morning as I left for school, I noticed all the local television stations displaying a T-1 signal across the top of the screen.  T-1 was even more mild, and I did not quite understand.

At about 5pm, I was already home from class, and had no desire to go out in the rain in HK (if you get any idea how crowded HK is from my posts, think of how annoying it is when all those people have umbrellas up too), although I still have plans to sort out my local residence ID card, and explore the South China Association for swim lessons.  I got a text from Sammi, a Japanese classmate in another level who has been living in HK off and on for 8 years now, warning me to stay home as the T-8 flag was recently raised.  I did not see why that was the case based on what I could see from my windows.

I quickly noticed the gale system displayed across nearly all the television stations again, but still had no idea what that would really mean.  Next my friend and former co-worker Vicky called to tell me to stay home.  She was being told to leave her law firm immediately.

Still I had no idea what this was all about.  I turned on what news I could find later in the evening.  I only had Cantonese news available, but saw that trees were already being found overturned!

This was serious, and in fact, the warning system is rather smart!  Here it is below:

Signal
Number
Signal
Name
Sustained Wind Speed
(km/h, (mph, Beaufort scale))
Gusts
(km/h (mph))
Signal
Sign
Light Signal
(Abolished)
Remarks

1

Stand-by (戒備)

N/A

N/A

Image:Tc1.gif

White
White
White

A tropical cyclone is centred within 800 kilometres of Hong Kong and may later affect the territory, or there are strong winds in Hong Kong waters

3

Strong winds (強風)

41 – 62 (26-37, Beaufort Force 6-7)

may exceed 110 (69)

Image:Tc3.gif

Green
White
Green

Strong winds are expected or blowing generally in Hong Kong near the sea level, and the wind condition is expected to persist

8 NW

Gale or storm force winds
(烈風或暴風)

63 – 117 (38-73, Beaufort Force 8-11)

may exceed 180 (113)

Image:Tc8nw.gif

White
Green
Green

Gale or storm force winds are expected or blowing generally in Hong Kong near the sea level from the NW quadrant, and the wind condition is expected to persist

8 NE

Image:Tc8ne.gif

Green
White
White

Gale or storm force winds are expected or blowing generally in Hong Kong near the sea level from the NE quadrant, and the wind condition is expected to persist

8 SE

Image:Tc8se.gif

Green
Green
White

Gale or storm force winds are expected or blowing generally in Hong Kong near the sea level from the SE quadrant, and the wind condition is expected to persist

8 SW

White
White
Green

Gale or storm force winds are expected or blowing generally in Hong Kong near the sea level from the SW quadrant, and the wind condition is expected to persist

9

Increasing
gale or storm force winds
(烈風或暴風風力增強)

88 – 117, increasing (55-73, Beaufort Force 10-11)

N/A

Green
Green
Green

Gale or storm force winds are increasing.

10

Hurricane (颶風)

>118 (74+, Beaufort Force 12)

may exceed 220 (138)

Image:Tc10.gif

Red
Green
Red

Hurricane force winds. Eye of typhoon may be passing directly over Hong Kong.


In addition, there is a colored cloud system on rainstorms:

AMBER rainstorm signal

This signal means:
Heavy rain has fallen or is expected to fall generally over Hong Kong, exceeding 30 millimetres in an hour, and is likely to continue.

The AMBER signal gives alert about potential heavy rain that may develop into RED or BLACK signal situations. There will be flooding in some low-lying areas and poorly drained areas.

[edit]RED rainstorm signal

This signal means:
Heavy rain has fallen or is expected to fall generally over Hong Kong, exceeding 50 millimetres in an hour, and is likely to continue.

The RED signal gives alert about potential heavy rain that may develop into BLACK signal situations. All students are to remain at school unless there is a visible risk to staying in the building.

[edit]BLACK rainstorm signal

This signal means:
Very heavy rain has fallen or is expected to fall generally over Hong Kong, exceeding 70 millimetres in an hour, and is likely to continue.

When the BLACK signal is issued, Hong Kong will come to a complete standstill. Schools will not dismiss students unless there is a visible risk to staying at school, and everyone is recommended to seek shelter immediately. Buses and other forms of public transport may be halted after a while to allow commuters to go home, depending on demand and the level of risk along the route. MTR services will be limited or suspended because of the risk of flooding.

The RED and BLACK signals warn the public of heavy rain which is likely to bring about serious road flooding and traffic congestion. They will trigger response actions by Government departments and major transport and utility operators. The public will be given clear advice on the appropriate actions to take.

—————————————————————————————————————————–

Although this typhoon, named Koppu,  was nowhere as damaging as the recent Typhoon Morakot in Taiwan, I appreciate the warning signal now.  This morning, the T-8 signal is still up, although expected to be downgraded to a 3 by 10:30am.  That meant classes were cancelled this morning at the Uni, and until the signal is downgraded, most stores I can see from outside my window are closed. But since I have afternoon session today, I will be resuming my studies on a very difficult lesson on news!

Check out this incredible photo captured by Michael Siward for the South China Morning Post!

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4 responses to “Typhoons is Serious Business: My First Typhoon in HK

  1. I don’t know If I said it already but …Hey good stuff…keep up the good work! 🙂 I read a lot of blogs on a daily basis and for the most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say I’m glad I found your blog. Thanks,)

    A definite great read….

  2. Thanks BloggerDude! I really appreciate that and am glad my blog is adding value!

  3. The image you posted which was taken by me and licensed for a single print to SCMP. Neither I nor SCMP gave permission for this image to be posted and used in this blog. Thus, I’m asking that you remove the file from your site. You may link the to my Flickr site if you wish, but the file taken from SCMP must be removed.

    Lightning Crashes

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