As I walked out of my dorm on Monday, the feeling outside was notably ominous. The sky threatened rain and the wind whipped my hair about fiercely. Nothing new, since it had been thunder storming for the past two days, complete with lightning strikes to the tops of the highest buildings AND a double rainbow. Later in the afternoon, the rain began to pour steadily, raindrops bouncing violently back up from huge puddles. Hong Kong Observatory hoisted the weather signal from a level 1 to a 3. My lab mates informed me that the level might be raised to a number 8 later in the evening. In this event, all Hong Kong citizens would be instructed to find shelter and safety or to head straight home. Several weeks earlier, I had experienced a level 8 warning and was hoping that this one would be more impressive than the last.
By 8 o’clock the wind had picked up considerably and I, being curious, headed outside to check it out. Periods of almost complete calm were interspersed with intense gusts of wind, blowing my hair sharply across my face and making 20 foot trees look like little sticks. The sky was a grayish purple hue as bands of clouds marched steadily across the sky. Later in the evening, in my dorm room, loud banging and whistling noises startled me. I peeked out into the hallway to catch the culprits, but soon realized it was the wind. Two windows were open in the hallway and wind kept pulling them out and slamming them shut. I felt like I was inside of a giant vacuum and I could hear the doors being pulled this way and that. Around 10 pm or so, the level was raised to a 10, a warning that has only been issued 13 times in Hong Kong history, and the first time this decade. In only six hours, the tropical depression had become a full blown typhoon. I watched from my window into the early hours of the morning. Below me was a ghost town, not a car or person in sight, the trees looking small and helpless from the 8th floor as they whipped violently about. The steady waves of wind and water were illuminated by the streetlights, and I was lulled to sleep.
Early hours of the storm
In the morning, the damage was visible everywhere. Streets were littered with flattened, trampled leaves and branches, broken umbrellas, trash, and even underwear. Some trees had limbs ripped off, while others were uprooted entirely. I saw one tree that had ripped up through the sidewalk, splitting apart the iron blocks that kept it secured. Entire swaths of trees still appeared to be blowing in the wind, leaning towards the ground at 35 degree angles. Every trashcan was transformed into an umbrella graveyard. In all my years living in the turbulent and storm ridden Midwest and in Texas, I have never seen anything like Typhoon Vicente. For a storm that was stronger than a Category 4 Hurricane (Katrina was a 3), and winds of up to 140 mph, the lack of structural and human damage amazes me. Two days later, the debris and rain remain, but life continues on as normal.
Hong Kong Observatory Weather Warnings
Level 1: Standby; Tropical cyclone is centered within 800 km of Hong Kong and may later affect the territory
Level 3: Strong winds expected between 26-37 mph, gusts may exceed 69 mph
Level 8: Gale or storm force winds between 38-73 mph, gusts may exceed 113 mph
Level 10: Hurricane; eye of typhoon may pass directly over Hong Kong, winds greater than 74 mph with gusts up to 138 mph.
The Typhoon Classifications
Tropical Depression: up to 62 km/h Tropical Storm: 63 to 87 km/h
Severe Tropical Storm: 88 to 117 km/h Typhoon: 118 to 149 km/h
Severe Typhoon: 150 to 184 km/h
Super Typhoon: 185 km/h or above
Read more here; http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/story/2012/07/24/typhoon-south-china-hong-kong.html http://edition.cnn.com/2012/07/23/world/asia/hong-kong-typhoon-vicente/index.html