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The Complete Guide to Surviving Your First Typhoon in Hong Kong

Joey Jepps | August 23, 2017

Hong Kong  Specials  

It’s that time of year again where students head back to school, work becomes more intense and we’re all praying for an extra day off in the form of a typhoon. Although Hong Kongers are used to typhoons, like how many Japanese citizens are used to Earthquakes, it may be a shock for tourists and newcomers. So here is a quick article on everything you need to know about living through your first typhoon season in Hong Kong.

1. Hong Kong typhoon ratings you must know

A typhoon is what we call a hurricane or cyclone in Hong Kong. Typhoons are big tropical storms caused by a region of low pressure. Winds pick up and often rain storms arrive too. Hong Kong has it’s own rating system for typhoons.

The higher the rating, the more dangerous the typhoon.

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Typhoon 1 – The typhoon is within 800 km of Hong Kong. Standby for stronger winds.

Typhoon 3 – 41-62 km/h strong winds are blowing in Hong Kong. Kindergartens are closed. Some ferries are cancelled.

Typhoon 8 – 63-113 km/h gale force winds are blowing in Hong Kong. Schools and most workplaces are cancelled. Unlikely for public transport to be running.

Typhoon 9 – 88-117 km/h gale force winds are blowing over Hong Kong. (All conditions with the Typhoon 8 rating still apply)

Typhoon 10 – Gale force winds of over 118 km/h are blowing in Hong Kong. (All the conditions with the Typhoon 9 rating still apply)

2. Fear not! Hong Kong is prepared for typhoons

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If you aren’t used to these sort of weather conditions, you may be slightly frightened. However, there is nothing to fear. This subtropical city is used to typhoons and has been built to withstand them.

  • Flooding will not be an issue for most living in Hong Kong. The city’s obsession with building skyward began to avoid flooding after some particularly deadly typhoons in the 50s and 60s.
  • High-rises are also built to sway slightly in the force of a typhoon. All Hong Kong engineers are required to read “The Code of Practice on Wind Effects in Hong Kong”, outlying what is to be done to protect a building from typhoons.
  • Bridges have “dimpled surfaces” which create friction to ensure that rain water limits the vibration of the bridge. This allows for a strong bridge which hardly sways in a typhoon.

3. How to prepare before the storm hits

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It’s always beneficial to be forewarned. The Hong Kong Observatory is great for weekly weather updates and will usually warn you of coming typhoons days in advance. If you’re prepared, you can ride out this typhoon rollercoaster with ease. Typhoons rarely last more than a day, but it is important to be ready for the worst. The days leading up to a typhoon will bring with it some of the best weather you have ever seen. The sun will blaze, temperatures will soar and there won’t be a cloud in the sky. Don’t let this fool you, the typhoon is still on its way.

  • Stock up on food and drinks the day before. Make good use of the nice weather before it changes.
  • It is advised to bring all washing or anything left outside or on your balconies indoors, even before the typhoon hits. You won’t want any lost items of clothing.
  • Taping your windows with adhesive tape in a large X formation will protect you from glass shards flying in the extremely unlikely event of your windows breaking.

4. What to do when the typhoon hits

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You will see that life practically runs as normal when the Typhoon signal number 1 and 3 are up. Everything changes when Signal 8 or more is risen.

  • If you find yourself outside when a signal 3 is hoisted, head home immediately, no dawdling.
  • Once home, although Hong Kong buildings and houses are built specifically for this type of weather, there is no harm in extra safety.
  • Keep an eye on the news or the Hong Kong Observatory for frequent weather updates. You won’t want to be caught off guard. The Observatory has a fantastic app with push notifications too!

5. Typhoons are unpredictable so don’t keep your hopes up

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If you think the normal weather is unpredictable, then a typhoon is even more so. Often the Hong Kong Observatory predicts a Typhoon 8 signal and the typhoon decides to divert at the last minute. Make sure you are familiar with the protocol at your school or job for a typhoon signal. In the event the typhoon signal is cancelled, your day should run as normal.

So to all the students out there, yes you will still need to do your homework the day before a forecasted typhoon.

I hope this article has equipped you with the necessary knowledge to withstand a typhoon in Hong Kong.

Good luck and stay safe!

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Joey Jepps

Studying Comparative Literature at University College London, yet born and raised in Hong Kong, Joey Jepps aims to show the world why he loves this vibrant city with a passion. Keen to show that this sprawling metropolis isn’t just about shopping and dining, he likes to promote the hidden gems of Hong Kong that people can’t see. Other articles by this author

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