What exactly is a typhoon? Well, it’s a hurricane or a cyclone, and its name literally means ‘big winds’. Unfortunately, it is part of life in Hong Kong and it is something that everyone will experience at least once during their time here. Thankfully, Hong Kong and its citizens are extremely well-prepared for extreme weather and being caught off guard is highly unlikely. Thanks to a 24/7 weather system, an early warning is put in place if there is even the chance of a typhoon heading our way. Until September, Hong Kong will be in the midst of typhoon season, with most storms making landfall in September. However, that’s not to say that you won’t experience a storm in July or August.
How will we be warned?
The minute a storm is identified, it will be tracked and monitored, with it’s progress being broadcast on local news. Signs will go up in most public places, including hotel lobbies, the MTR stations, cafes and bus stops. So don’t worry, it is highly unlikely that you will miss a warning. You might see a sign with various characters and numbers, making it a little hard to decipher. This is usually how typhoon signs are worded:
Level 1- this is when a storm has the potential to become a typhoon. This could last for several days but you should not notice a direct effect on your everyday life.
Level 3- strong wind with heavy rain is expected. Public transportation will run but boat cruises will be cancelled. Nurseries will close, as will some stores and businesses.
Level 8- gales and strong winds are certain. Everything will close at this point, bar none. Usually this warning is posted several hours in advance to ensure that people have time to get home safely. The direction of the winds will also be posted.
Level 9- this is the most unusual and most destructive of the typhoon signage. Winds are expected to increase in severity.
Level 10- this is only issued if the eye of the storm is expected to hit Hong Kong. You can expect hurricane strength winds.
What about the in-between levels? Usually, these are uncommon and storms fall into the above brackets, so these are the ones that you should be concerned about the most.
What do I do in the event of a typhoon?
Obviously, don’t panic. Taking the correct precautions is the best way to ensure that you and your loved ones don’t get hurt. If a level 1 or 2 warning is issued, then try not to plan any trips out of Hong Kong, even if it is only to neighbouring Macau. Avoid coastal areas and sailing. Once a level 3 warning has been issued, your best bet is to stay indoors. It’s quite probable that there will be a lot of debris flying around, so best not to be outdoors for too long. Level 3 warnings are particularly dangerous in the fact that they can quickly change to a level 8, and if you are caught outdoors when the warning changes, you might find yourself stuck with no shelter. Remember, level 8 warnings mean that all public transport stops. Once a level 8 has been issued, you really have no choice but to stay indoors, away from the windows. Do not go outside to take photos as it could wind up being a very regrettable choice. In the unlikely event of a level 9 or 10, you must stay indoors until the all-clear. Being under the eye may mean that conditions improve but once the storm begins to move, things could turn violent very quickly.
Typhoons are a normal part of life in Hong Kong and do not necessarily have to be seen as dangerous. If you use your common sense and take the necessary precautions, you should be perfectly safe.