Surviving Tropical Cyclone Merbok

Big Lychee, Various Sectors

By the time the Hong Kong Observatory raised the Number 3 (Don’t Panic But Get Worried) Signal at 10.30 yesterday morning, we were experiencing occasional showers and a bit of a breeze. At times, these turned into heavier, normal-Hong Kong-summer, semi-deluges.

At around 5.30pm, the Observatory issued the Number 8 (Everyone Use Public Transport Immediately Regardless of Destination) Signal. This heralded a noticeable improvement in the weather: in my neighbourhood it was an overcast but dry and still evening, and would have been ideal for a barbecue. Later in the night, it seems to have started raining again – but in a gentle, sleep-enhancing way.

As dawn broke after 5.00am, the Observatory lowered the Number 8 and raised the Number 3 (No You’re Not Getting the Morning Off Ha Ha) Signal. The medium-drizzle turned to more of a light downpour and the wind became gustier. By the time people were getting to work, the covered but open-sided pedestrian walkways in Central were subject to the ‘horizontal driving rain’ effect that makes life in the business district so amusing during summer.

Although the weather contradicted the Observatory’s warnings, at no stage were conditions at all dangerous. At worst, sufferers of umbrella-bringing deficit disorder experienced discomfort and dampness.

Of course, this all took place on the leeside of the solid granite mountains running along Hong Kong Island, and amid tower blocks providing added protection from the elements. For all I know, people in less sheltered areas like Sai Kung were swept away to their doom, along with the fallen trees mentioned in news reports. And we salute the resourcefulness and courage of residents of outlying islands and remote villages for elbowing and otherwise finding their way home safely. And I realize that the science is so inexact that meteorologists can’t detect anything about the wind and rain until the depression is right on top of us. And I would hate to think some precious schoolkids might get soaked if the HKO civil servants didn’t issue the Red Alert every time just to be safe. And I am not miffed because the weather got worse and we still had to go to work.