Seven Dead Umbrellas

burned out hulk of an MD-11 Typhoon Sam came calling and took a huge dump on the territory.

Let me enlighten those of you who've never lived through a Pacific hurricane.

If you live in a well-developed area, you don't have much to worry about: just stay indoors. But if you live in rural areas, villages or farms, you're in for a boatload of trouble.

This was Typhoon Sam as it began kicking the crap out of us (click-through):

Click-through for larger pop-up image · Sam made landfall in Hong Kong as a 75-knot system, which was the average windspeed within the typhoon itself. However, gusts were recorded as high as 101 kilometres per hour inside Victoria Harbour, and 155 kph in Cheung Chau (almost 100 mph for those of you still on the ancient imperial system).

· The eye of the storm was 25 kilometres in diameter.

· Sam was a large typhoon. It skirted the east side of Hong Kong; the whole peninsula took the brunt of the winds. The No. 8 storm signal was hoisted all day and into the night. Sam was pesky as it was slow-moving.

· Rain pelted the territory without mercy. The Black Rainstorm warning, which indicates extreme precipitation, was raised during this time. The downpour was worst between 4.30am and 10.00am, and caused the closures of financial markets, banks, schools, government offices and businesses.

· More than 200mm of rain was recorded in the southeastern areas of Hong Kong, while the New Territories received over 100mm. The heaviest rainfall was 409mm in Sham Tseng. Overall, there were 67 flood reports and 23 reports of landslides.

To add insult to injury:

burned out hulk of an MD-11 · A China Airlines MD-11 crashed while trying to land at Chek Lap Kok Airport. The Taiwanese airliner had a great deal of difficulty with the prevailing crosswind, which caused it to flip upside down, catch fire, and slide off the runway into a grassy lee. Three people died in the accident, but the other 300+ passengers survived.

· Several areas had landslides as rain continued beyond the passage of Sam.

· Crops in several areas were wiped out; vegetable prices doubled overnight.

· Two trees outside our building were nearly snapped in half. All over the territory, trees, branches and other foliage had to be cleared from roads and walkways.

· The force of the winds driving the rain took advantage of a small gap in the wall of our bedroom where the air conditioner sits. All night the water came in, soaking the sides and bottom half of our mattress. I spend the next day drying it with a fan.

"In a 10-minute walk, we counted seven dead umbrellas."

A sure sign of a typhoon in Hong Kong are the remnants of cheap umbrellas too fragile to handle the force of the wind. Every time a typhoon hits, I see discarded, destroyed umbrella wreckage everywhere: in garbage bins, on the roads, in alleyways and on the sidewalks. In a 10-minute walk, we counted seven dead umbrellas. An umbrella shop in Sha Tin New Town Plaza is having record sales this month.

burned out hulk of an MD-11 Five days after the storm, Hong Kong is still cleaning up. At the airport, investigators are carving up the MD11 into pieces to get it away from the South Runway. They are trying to preserve the crash evidence while avoiding further fires or explosion (the cargo hold is full of rotting fruit, vegetables, snails and frogs; cutting torches risk setting off the methane).

Slopes in danger of slipping are being examined and shored up. Flood waters are receding.

Our mattress is dry and life is returning to normal.

But vegetable prices are still high.

August 28, 1999

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