Saturday, 23 October 2010

Typhoon Megi

Typhoon Megi passed us by.

There we were, lashing down the furniture, taking our cue from the local restaurant. In a quiet time, the staff steadied step ladders under the ceiling fans, wrapped up the blades in black plastic, and strapped them to the roof joists with red nylon rope.

The tree cutters were out in force this week too; lopping off overhanging branches and cutting back the green twines, all along the routes that might speed the island's little emergency vehicle that has space for a driver and a stretcher.

All around the island there has been activity and anticipation of one sort or another; the office workers who work on Hong Kong Island but live out here, disconnected from sky rise blocks and overhead walkways, who still plough their way off the ferries at predictable times, have been full of the coming storm. Listen to them and all the talk has been, When will it hit us? Thousands of people have been evacuated south from here. Will there be flooding? Will it break on Friday? Friday would be good I hear, because at Typhoon warning 8, all the offices shut down, the workers are sent home, and everything fastened up. We've been at warning 3 all week. There are no numbers 4 to 7.

But, all week, while we've heard rumours of a 500-mile wide impact zone, and glimpsed photographs of the torn apart Philippines, with its bashed up roads and swept away cars, here in Hong Kong we've had a simple breeze; indistinguishable from the normal tropical wind that ruffles your hair and flaps the washing. On Tuesday, it rose, and we all looked to the doors. The landlord hastened round, wound back the awnings and secured them to sturdy metal frames with yards of cord. Then he said everything would be alright if we locked up and sat tight.

The loss of our awnings left us exposed only to the fierce sun which the next day penetrated the tops of our heads as we sat outside to eat breakfast and muse over how many tins we had to stock in the cupboards. We drew out extra housekeeping and bought tinned fruit.

But the winds didn't come. By Thursday, there was rebellious talk that it would miss us completely. The Hong Kong Observatory played it cool, said little, drew 6-hour pictures of the typhoon's track without much comment. We chased the typhoon on blogs and news sites in cyber space.

By Friday, still nothing. An irresponsible part of me was a little disappointed. Everyone remembered the night of the tropical storm when the lightening flash was so strong and long it lit up the sky like a flashbulb someone couldn't turn off. From a guarding place at the window, Dig conveyed reports of branches blasted by wind and turned out to the rain like broken elbows and knees threw into a torrent. I sat on the bed and gave Tiger a cuddle while Shark and Squirrel gripped the duvet.

But now, nothing. All typhoon warnings, off. Hong Kong is missed. The restaurant unwrapped the ceiling fans and set them whirring as normal. The office workers tutted. We resolved to call the landlord to have the awning put back, so we could sit and gobble up tinned fruit salad outside all week. Then we walked through the normal everyday of the local town to stare at the TV screen in the vegetable shop and watch, instead, what a typhoon does when it meets tree, and road, and house.


sharon said...

Probably the anticipation is more exciting than the actual experience which is pretty bloody awful I understand. Had been watching the weather too, knowing that at one stage you were in Megi's path. You should be ok now for quite a while as October is well past typhoon season normally.

We have had so little wet stuff this year that Fire Season has been declared almost 2 months early. Does not bode well for the coming Summer.

Kestrel said...

We had cyclone parties in north Queensland when I was a young and irresponsible teenager. People would surf because the reef stopped decent waves at other times. You could do exciting things with gaffer tape and plate glass windows, and tinned fruit and bottled water were novelties.

I feel your disappointment, right now my children are wishing for a decent flood for much the same reasons.