Saturday, August 23, 2008

Typhoon Nuri

After four years in HK, I finally experienced my first real typhoon, Nuri - a direct hit. Since the typhoon signal number 8 was hoisted early in the morning, we spent the day at home. Tropical cyclones, as typhoons are called in HK, are large rotational systems. The wind direction hence keept changing, as the typhoon moves position. During the first half of the day, we did not feel much, as the wind came from the back of the house which is very well protected by the hills. Then, for several hours, we were in the eye of the storm. The wind had died down completely, there was an awkward silence, and to our great surprise hundreds of dragon flies left their hideouts and staged a group-dance on the grassy slope below the house. By this time, and unnoticed by us, the typhoon had increased to a number 9, the second highest stage, which had not been reached for five years.
Finally, the wind shifted, and hit the house directly. Crossing Clear Water Bay, the wind was channeled directly upon the seaside of the house. For a very brief moment, this seemed fun, but soon became scary. The gusts ripped large pieces of metal from the roof, which landed behind the house. Humongous flower pots, full of soil and too heavy even for two people, were pushed around and finally burst.
Then, things got really scary. The windload on the seaside windows increased, and threatened to break them. Honestly, the windows bulged inwards, as if they were balloons. Something had to happen. We do have heavy wooden shutters, but these were rotten, and only attached on few remaining hinges. Since our landlord had informed us that it was not necessary to ever put them, I had left them off. Now, they needed to go in place - quickly. Equiped with my motorcycle helmet, and a hammer, I set out to install the shutters. The two outside the bedroom were soon unfolded, and I placed some heavy deck chars against them, to keep them in place. Unfortunately, the ones in front of the living room were harder. One went ok, but the other just would not move. By this time, the wind had increased further, and I had to give up. I stepped aside, and in the same second, a hevy gust ripped the teak shutters from the wall, and shattered them against a wall three meters over. Note, the thing is so heavy, that I can hardly lift one of its four panels by hand. I hurried inside, towards safety. The bedroom was ok, and the windload on the living room windows was cut by half. But it was still not clear if the windows would hold. There is not much I could do, but I figured that if the windows break, at least I could make sure that the broken glass would not shoot through the room like shrapnell. So, we propped the couch table against the window, and pushed sofas behind. By this time, the wind had pushed enough water under the windows, to cause an inch high flood. Finally, our living room looked like a war zone. Since there was nothing else to do, we put flashlights, boots and helmets next to the bed, and went to sleep. The next morning, our house looked like this: