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The Boy Who Cried Wolf

After seven typhoon seasons in Hong Kong, I've seen a moderate number of typhoons ranging from the mild T1 through to the massive T8, and I must admit I've kind of slipped into a 'shrug-your-shoulders' attitude towards typhoons. 

This is because every time there's a typhoon, even at the massive T8 stage, it never seems particularly dangerous. During each typhoon, the Hong Kong observatory issues stern warnings to stay indoors, lock your windows, take in any flower pots, and my favorite: 'The T1 signal is hoisted' (hoisted - how do they come up with that?!), and the news on TV is peppered with drenched and bedraggled journalists reporting 'live' (always) from the Tsim Sha Tsui and/or Central ferry terminal where you can see rocky waves in the background. Holed up at home, looking out the window, it always looks mild, sometimes it's not even raining and there's barely a gust of wind. 

There's also a multitude of rainstorm warnings here in Hong Kong - amber rain, black rain, the list goes on. Black rain is enough to shut down all businesses wherever you are. So if you're at work, you stay at work - no one is allowed outdoors. And if you're at home, you stay at home. Coming from Singapore where it rains all the time, frequently in sudden downpours, I don't even bat an eyelid at the black rain here. It doesn't seem particularly alarming to me and I wonder what the fuss is all about. 

So it was just another day yesterday when it started out with a T1 signal being hoisted (I cannot resist!). I was out at Tsim Sha Tsui getting a facial. While waiting for the therapist to arrive, I checked out the observatory news (a favorite past-time of residents in Hong Kong) on my iPhone, which said the typhoon was picking up speed and the T3 signal is now hoisted (hoisted!), but because of the direction the typhoon was heading, any chance of this being upgraded to a T8 signal later in the day was slim. 

Not an hour later, whilst having my face caked in green caviar, the therapist left the room and returned to report that the latest observatory news was that it would turn to a T8 in the evening. We were 6 hours away from the evening, plenty of warning. 

I was on my way home after the facial and walked outdoors in T3 weather conditions which was very manageable by the way, except for occasional strong gusts of wind. All of a sudden, it turned out to be so strong that my umbrella broke whilst fighting it. It was all I could do to hold on to my umbrella so it wouldn't fly off but it could not withstand the battering of the wind and broke in its mighty hands. What!

I got home in one piece and just like the observatory said, the T8 signal was in force in the evening. Still no biggie, we've had a couple of T8s already this season. I was sure it would be all over by the next morning and everyone would be back to work. A common wish for working folks is for T8 to be in force because it means you don't have to go to work. The city shuts down - the stock market, government, offices etc. It's always disappointing when the T8 signal comes on in the evenings because your work day is over with any way. 

However, overnight, Typhoon Vincente waged a massive storm and wreaked havoc, becoming more and more ferocious, inching up to a Typhoon 10 signal, the highest warning and the first that's been issued in 13 years. In bed, I could hear the wind howling and the rain smashing on to our window panes. This is hands down the worst typhoon I've seen in 7 years here. By this morning, the Typhoon 8 signal was still in force, Hong Kong was under siege and looking out the windows, it was a ghost town with nary a car in sight. Everyone was staying locked up indoors. 

A look out at my balcony revealed the chaos Vicente left in its wake. 

Plants blown permanently askew and flower pots overturned. 

It felt like the boy who cried wolf. Seven typhoon seasons and now it's the real McCoy.

Hong Kong, I'm going to miss you, typhoons and all.

Reader Comments (3)

Back in the old days when there was no Internet, television or even radio, the observatory had to literally hoist the signal high up so the villagers could see. See the different shapes the different levels of typhoon warnings are in? Those are the shapes of the signs being hoisted in the old days.
HK and typhoons will miss you too.
P.S. I did check the observatory app a million times in the past couple of days. How typical HK I am!

July 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSylvia

Take a look at the real signs for hoisting:

July 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSylvia

Ahh...I see. Wait, are you sure you're not just making this up?

July 25, 2012 | Registered CommenterKenggai

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