In my favorite children's book, Alexander and the Magical Mouse, a yak, a crocodile, a brindle London squatting cat, and an old lady get a portentious message from the magical mouse, predicting forty days and forty nights of rain. They stockpile tea, marmalade, and toast to ride out the storm.
Hong Kong officially "hoisted the typhoon flag" today. Sounds all nautical and British, and probably is.
Hoisting a typhoon flag, in Hong Kong, has happened once already on this trip. It was a level 1 flag, a week ago, and it meant a couple days of rain, some rough ferry crossings, and a few great days of surf for the kids on their boogie boards. The "hoisted flag" announcements showed up in the subways, in shopping malls, in any number of odd places.
The numbering system is also odd. Typhoons are level 1, 3, 8, or 10. Don't ask me what happened to the other numbers. I don't know.
This time, though, things are different. This morning, our hotel owner was out taking down all the umbrellas and folding up the awnings. On our touring today, the air was incredibly humid, almost a hot pea-soup fog with the sun shining through. It spat rain, then the sun peeked out again, and the humidity soared.
When we got back to Lamma on the 5:20 ferry, the harbor, usually dotted with small fishing boats, was empty. It turns out they've all gone to the typhoon shelter at Causeway Bay.
The typhoon flag had been upgraded from 1 to 3.
As we walked down the main street, things looked different. All the umbrellas were gone. Shop owners folded up awnings and all manner of tarps and shelters from the sun and rain. Many people had (carefully) tipped over their large potted plants, so the wind won't do it for them. A lot of the bars and restaurants on the island are open-air, and everyone seemed to be battening down the hatches.
There I go with the nautical references again.
I'm from Oregon! And nowhere near the coast. The most excitement we get, weather-wise, is the occasional ice storm.
It started sprinkling rain around dark. My husband went out for groceries. We have the oddest assortment of food--cereal and milk, cheese, eggs, last night's leftovers, crackers, oatmeal packets, bread, fruit. But we were out of English digestive biscuits! (They're sort of like graham crackers. My daughter loves them.) Why exactly we needed biscuits, right then, I don't know, but I suddenly had to have them. I went out in the warm wind and spitting rain, watching the Lamma Islanders hurry home in the dark. The businesses all have big silver garage-doors that cover their shops when they close, and many were closed. A few brave souls tried to lure in diners to their restaurants, but most were empty, the usual sidewalk tables put away.
I found a few shops still open, people smiling and hurrying as they bought odds and ends of groceries. I found my biscuits. We packed our haphazard supply of food into the world's tiniest hotel kitchen.
I wish I had an old house with a turret, and a telescope, like the animals do in Alexander and the Magical Mouse. I'd climb the creaky stairs and look out at the rain.
Instead, I look out my hotel room window at the cement patio.
It's nearly 11:00 p.m. and pouring rain now, and I can hear occasional wind gusts. Houses here are built of cement, and now I know why. I can see a few tree branches whipping around in the wind outside my window.
We're in for a wild night.
I just checked the weather web site. We're about to get upgraded from 3 to 8.
The Hong Kong Observatory Web Site says:
Tropical Cyclone Bulletin
Here is the latest Tropical Cyclone Bulletin issued by the Hong Kong Observatory.
The Strong Wind Signal, No. 3 is in force.
This means that winds with mean speeds of 41 to 62 kilometres per hour are expected.
At 10 p.m., Tropical Storm Doksuri was estimated to be about 110 kilometres south-southeast of Hong Kong (near 21.4 degrees north 114.7 degrees east) and is forecast to move west-northwest at about 30 kilometres per hour heading towards the Pearl River Estuary.
The Hong Kong Observatory announces that the Tropical Cyclone Warning Signal Number 8 is expected to be issued at or before 11:20 p.m. today (29 Jun 2012). Winds locally will strengthen further.
The Government advises members of the public with long or difficult home journeys or having to return to outlying islands to begin their journeys now.
And I'm supposed to go to bed and sleep?
I don't think so!
It's 11:28 p.m. now. The official government weather web site has gone down, probably too much traffic. On another site, the typhoon flag has been upgraded from 3 to 8.
The official word from the government site (it's back up):
The No. 8 Northeast Gale or Storm Signal is in force.
This means that winds with mean speeds of 63 kilometres per hour or more are expected from the northeast quarter.
At 11 p.m., Tropical Storm Doksuri was centred about 100 kilometres south-southeast of Hong Kong Observatory (near 21.4 degrees north 114.4 degrees east) and is forecast to move west-northwest at about 30 kilometres per hour moving closer to the Pearl River Estuary.
Under the influence of Doksuri, local winds continued to strengthen, reaching gale force in Hong Kong. On the present forecast track, Dorksuri will be closest to Hong Kong in the next few hours, passing within 100 km to the south-southwest.
Since there are rough seas, you are advised to stay away from the shoreline and not engage in water sports.
In the past hour, the maximum sustained winds recorded at Tate's Cairn and Waglan Island were 90 and 89 kilometres per hour respectively.
We don't have a toaster, and my family won't eat marmalade, but I do have tea, bread, strawberry jam, and digestive biscuits. I'm ready.