(feature picture source: SCMP)
In fact, we embrace them!
Typhoon is a natural phenomenon in which strong winds spiral around a region of low atmospheric pressure. To those experiencing them for the first time, it can seem quite scary. Khushboo Jogi, a Thai student currently studying at the University of Hong Kong says, “I was expecting glass and metal fragments to fly around, but surprisingly, it was only rainy and a little bit windy. Oh, and nobody here really seemed to care.”
For people new to Hong Kong who might be alarmed by the locals’ apathetic attitude to typhoons, please know that we are completely aware of our safety – we’ve just been desensitized.
- Typhoons are a common occurrence
In August, three major tropical storms struck Hong Kong over a period of two weeks. Right after the city was struck by the T10 Typhoon Hato, the severe tropical storm Pakhar arrived, giving it no time to recover.
Hong Kong’s typhoon season is from late May to early November, and in 2016, a total nine typhoons came within 800 km of Hong Kong. Since typhoons affect Hong Kong frequently, construction firms and transport companies have been able to adjust their day-to-day operations to accommodate the storms. As the impact on their daily lives are reduced, locals in Hong Kong have learned not to give typhoons a second thought.
- Our weather forecast system is top notch
Due to the volatile weather, the local weather forecast system has to evolve, and therefore becomes highly accurate when it is forecasting typhoons. Two days before Typhoon Hato struck Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Observatory had already issued the T1 warning, which alerted people about an incoming typhoon. The day before typhoon hit Hong Kong, the T3 warning, which signifies the presence of intense winds, was issued at 6 pm. By 5.30 am, on the day of the typhoon, they issued the T8 signal, and therefore notified both adults and children. By the time the T10 signal was hoisted at 9 am, most of the city was safely at home.
- Multiple warnings are posted everywhere
Signs and posters with typhoons warnings are plastered all over Hong Kong; on the local train notification systems, customer service desks in malls, entrances to schools – it’s highly unlikely that anyone living in Hong Kong will be able to miss them.
- Construction materials used in Hong Kong are highly resistant to typhoons
Most of the buildings in Hong Kong are made from concrete, an extremely strong construction material that can therefore withstand the high wind speeds from typhoons. To illustrate the strength of concrete, compare the impact of Typhoon Hato on Hong Kong, and Hurricane Harvey on Texas. Typhoon Hato was marginally weaker at 175 km/h, whereas Hurricane Harvey was a little stronger at 185 km/h; yet there was essentially zero architectural damage in Hong Kong, whereas Americans in Texas and Florida had their houses (which were built using plywood and drywall) blown apart.
- People want the extra day off!
Due to the above factors, locals in Hong Kong tend to be quite nonchalant about typhoons, and in fact, they look forward to typhoons – but only if it’s strong enough to warrant a T8 or above signal.
Yi Yeung, a student at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, says, “I love typhoons depending on when the observatory announces the T8. If it’s in the morning then I can have the day off from work and school, which is great. but if it’s announced during office hours it’s quite horrendous because of the jam packed MTR.”
If typhoons are T3 or below, students and employees must go to school or work as normal, but they get an extra day off if a strong typhoon hits the city. Therefore, it’s a common sight to see students praying for a T8 signal, which probably seems quite strange to outsiders.
Online team: Jasmine