Monday, 28 September 2015

Taiwan Weather - Typhoons

Typhoons are part and parcel of living in Taiwan. The island sits on two pathways typhoons can follow after forming in the Pacific, heading either to Vietnam or Japan, Korea and far eastern Russia. As a developed country, Taiwan does not suffer as badly as the Philippines and other nations with poorer infrastructures, but nevertheless the island rarely escapes some form of tragedy whenever a typhoon passes over.

Typhoon Soudelor

We had not experienced the full brunt of a typhoon until Soudelor earlier this year. After being woken at four in the morning, we spent the day watching in apprehension as the river that runs next to the road in front of our apartment rose higher and higher, threatening to flood its banks and inundate the houses that sit next to it.

Typhoon Soudelor

During the day something like an air conditioning unit fell from our building and through a greenhouse roof a couple of floors down, to be followed later by a window unit from our neighbour's apartment.

Typhoon damage

We were lucky. Friends lost power and/or spent the day trying to stem the flow of rainwater being forced into their homes. Those living in tall buildings felt them sway for hours on end.

The following day the devastation of the storm was apparent. Several lives had been lost, branches littered the streets of Taipei, the river paths were a muddy mess covered with plastic bottles and other rubbish, signs were down and windows were broken everywhere. The guard's office in our building was entirely smashed in. Over the next few days the domestic water supplies in some areas became turbid - a dirty brown, unfit to wash with, let alone drink, even with filtering.

Typhoon Dujuan

As I write this we are in the midst of Typhoon Dujuan. It is Mid-Autumn Festival, a national holiday, but even if it were not no one in Taipei would be going to work today.

The wind is whistling, moaning and howling around the apartment, driving massive sheets of rain horizontally against the building. I am checking the river every so often, but it hasn't yet reached the level it did during Typhoon Soudelor, so that's something to be thankful for at least.

It's hard to convey what typhoons are like. Up until Soudelor and Dujuan, I had been underwhelmed by them. Previous typhoons were rainy, blustery days that people enjoyed because they got a day off work. I realise now that I had not been in the centre of a typhoon as it passed through.

Typhoon Dujuan

Being in the heart of a typhoon is a humbling experience. It makes you more than usually grateful for having a safe, secure roof over your head and ready access to food, water and emergency help if you need it.

So far I have not heard reports of lives lost or major disasters as a result of Typhoon Dujuan, and fingers crossed things will continue the same overnight as the storm passes. What is especially saddening about this typhoon is that Taipei had just about returned to normal in recent weeks after a massive clean up. Witnessing the power of this storm, I'm in trepidation over what the city will look like in the morning. No doubt the clean up will have to take place all over again.

Typhoons are definitely nothing to be sniffed at. Good luck to everyone else who is experiencing this storm.

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