A Sudden Left

Typhoon Leo Typhoon season is upon us early.

Leo came close to Hong Kong, forcing the Hong Kong Observatory to hoist Signal Flag No. 8, which is taken seriously.

Leo began as a tropical depression. As it crossed the ocean heading North, it increased in strength and was upgraded to tropical storm, severe tropical storm, and finally, typhoon.

It looked as though it would sail past Hong Kong and make landfall at Hainan in China, but during the last 24 hours, Leo took a sudden and sharp left hand turn and made a beeline toward us.

"... Signal Flag No. 10: hurricane-strength winds."

A northern monsoon filled with cold air robbed Leo of some of its power; as it tracked closer to Hong Kong it was downgraded to tropical depression. It passed only 45 km to the east; a close call. Had it retained its strength, we may have had Signal Flag No. 10: hurricane-strength winds.

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To better understand the Hong Kong Observatory's warning flag system, here are some links to its web site. In the future, as typhoons are spawned in the Pacific, you can track their movements and their effects on the peninsula and surrounding territory.

Learn about the signal flag rating system.

If a typhoon is close to Hong Kong, get a visual on the storm track.

Learn how storms are classified.

Hong Kong's Historical Calamitous Typhoons is interesting reading and illustrates the nature of the threat.

Check out the Observatory's entire site.

Even with Signal No. 8 hoisted, we didn't get pounded; the storm was much weaker than it would have been without the monsoon. Leo was the earliest typhoon recorded since the Observatory started keeping records 50 years ago. I expect it to be a busy season, and the season is long.

Leo came in like a lion but went out like a lamb.

May 4, 1999

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