LivingTravelHow to prepare for typhoons in Hong Kong

How to prepare for typhoons in Hong Kong

Summer in Hong Kong: it’s hot, sticky… and occasionally deadly.

Typhoons, or tropical cyclones as they are known in Hong Kong, regularly skirt the city in the summer months. Typhoon season runs from May to the end of September, and September is particularly susceptible to typhoons.

Tropical cyclones can cause varying degrees of damage and, in rare cases, injuries and deaths. Although the danger of these massive storms should not be minimized, Hong Kong has had a long practice of dealing with them. Unless the city takes a direct hit (which is rare), your vacation plans won’t go too far off course.

Hong Kong Cyclone Warning System

Fortunately, Hong Kong has an easy warning system that lets you know what storm intensity to expect. The warning system is posted on all TV stations (look for the box in the upper right corner), and most buildings will also have signs with the warnings.

See below for an explanation of the various signs.

T1: on the horizon . This simply means that a typhoon has been seen less than 800 km from Hong Kong. In practical terms, that means the typhoon is still a day or two away and there is a good chance it will change course and miss Hong Kong entirely. Typhoon one signal is only meant to be a warning to watch for new developments.

T3: The winds are picking up . Now things are getting worse. Winds of up to 110 km are expected in Victoria Harbor. You should tie up anything on balconies and rooftops, and stay away from coastal areas. Depending on the severity of the winds, you may want to stay indoors.

However, for the most part, Hong Kong will continue as usual during a T3 warning : public transport will work and museums and shops will open. Your flights or ferries to Macau are worth checking out as they may be delayed. Hong Kong will generally broadcast a T3 signal about a dozen times a year.

T8: Batten the hatches. Winds in Victoria Harbor can now exceed 180 km. Most of Hong Kong will close the store and the workers will be sent home. The Hong Kong Observatory will issue a warning of a T8 signal at least two hours in advance so that people can enter.

Public transportation will operate during the warning period, but not once the T8 signal has been raised. You must stay in and away from exposed windows. If you are staying in an older building, you may want to tape the windows as this will reduce the chance of injury if the window is broken. Most restaurants will be closed and most if not all flights will be canceled or diverted.

T8 signals can last from an hour or two to all day, but the city is back online as soon as the signal is canceled. You’ll find transportation in operation and stores open almost immediately. The T8 signal rarely rises more than once or twice a year.

T10: Direct hit . A T10 means that the eye of the storm will park directly over Hong Kong. Direct hits are rare. However, when one hits, the damage can be immense and sadly many people die. You need to follow the instructions for a T8 and tune in to the local news for more information.

There will always be a number 8 sign before a number 10 sign, allowing you plenty of time to seek shelter indoors. Remember, there may be a lull in the storm when the eye is directly over Hong Kong, but you must stay indoors as the wind will return. Even with a direct hit, Hong Kong is back up and running quickly. Expect some localized outage, but for the most part, everything should be back to normal within a few hours.

More information on typhoons in Hong Kong

The official Hong Kong Observatory provides some very interesting information on the local typhoon warning sign and updates on current typhoon warnings.

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