Typhoon Vicente slammed Hong Kong last night reaching the maximum “T 10” status at 00:45, before being downgraded to a more normal typhoon status of “T8” at 3.35 am. Still, no complaints from many locals as a T8 still guarantees most people a lie in. Hong Kong issues a single weather warning for the entire territory which is communicated through the Hong Kong Observatory’s website (or very handy app), television stations or local radio channels, such as the English language RT HK3. A T8 level, or higher, means that all schools are closed, transportation (other then then MTR) is interrupted and almost all business are closed.
I like to imagine typhoons as big, bad muscle men who spend their days over the Pacific ocean, their gym, working out to become as big as they can and do as much damage as possible. When finally ready to make an appearance, they begin to move towards land, giving us humans only an indication of their direction and maintaining the exclusive right to change course at any point in time. That is what happened yesterday when ‘Tropical Storm’ Vicente suddenly increased in strength and changed course slightly, but just enough to cause havoc in Macau and Hong Kong.
We monitor these beasts, give them names and rank them as if they were competing in a game. Perhaps this is what encourages them as these bad boys are competing for a legacy and news coverage.
For most expats, typhoons are something to look forward to as the big ones, anything above an 8, are not common and being able to say you experienced a T10 is something to boast about. To put it in perspective, the last one was thirteen years ago. As soon as a T8 is hoisted, rather then stay indoors as advised, many expats will make their way to Wan Chai or Soho for a typhoon party. A number of pubs are well known for their special typhoon offers such as free drinks or shooters if a T8 warning is hoisted. At T10 however they all shut down and then you either walk home or negotiate ridiculous rates with the entrepreneurial taxi drivers lurking around these pubs as the rain & wind hammer down.
What is the difference between a Hurricane, Typhoon and Cyclone?
The main difference is simply geography. In the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, and the Eastern Pacific Ocean, these severe storms are called hurricanes while in the Western Pacific Ocean, they are called typhoons. In the Indian Ocean, the Bay of Bengal, and Australia, we refer to these storms as cyclones.
Typhoon & Hurricane names
According to NASA, Hurricanes are named according to a list selected by the World Meteorological Organization. The Atlantic Basin is assigned six lists of names, with one list used each year. Every sixth year, the first list begins again. Each name on the list starts with a different letter, for example, the name of the very first hurricane of the season starts with the letter A, the next starts with the letter B, and so on. The letters “Q”, “U”, “X”, “Y” and “Z”, however, are not used. Often when an unusually destructive hurricane hits, that hurricane’s name is retired and never used again (Katrina, for example has been retired)
Typhoons on the other hand are not named exclusively using first names. The nations around the western Pacific basin began using an entirely new system for naming typhoons in 2000. These fourteen nations, all affect by typhoons have submitted a list of names for a total of 141 names. The names include animals, flowers, astrological signs and a few personal names. These names are then used sequentially. Typhoon Vicente, which we were introduced to last night, was a name submitted by the US.
For a full list of Typhoon names and the countries that submitted them click here.