Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Wind or no wind, the Dutch guy goes to work...

A couple of weeks ago, when the weather was still hot and humid in Hong Kong, my alarm woke me at the usual time of 7.00am. After taking a shower, having breakfast and all the other morning activities, I grabbed my laptop and went down with the elevator.

Walking out of the elevator and the building, entering the street I started to get an unusual feeling, that something was not entirely the same as every other day. Meanwhile, thinking about what could cause my unusual feeling, I walked down the road to the Hong Kong MTR (metro). It is about 8 minutes walk downhill along the road.

"What is wrong today?" Is it the weather? Mmm, not really. It was grey, yes, but it didn't rain, and there was a some wind coming from the other side of the hill, but nothing to be scared of.

"But what was it then?"

It was quite silent this day, something that never happens in Hong Kong. While walking further I noticed that there was really nobody on the street. Usually around this time, the street is full of businessmen going to work, grandmothers walking with the Filipino maids to bring the children to school, and lots of taxi's, cars and buses on the road to transport all those million of souls across the city. But today.. absolutely nothing. No people, no cars, buses. Even the security guards were nowhere to be found.

Even the MTR stations were totally emtpy,
unusual for the rush hour!
"Well I guess I am the only foreigner that doesn't have a free day today. Guess I must have missed something" I thought to myself, and continued my walk to the MTR station.

But when getting to the entrance of the metro, I noticed they had placed a sign near to the elevator:

"Typhoon level 8 is hoisted"

That explains it!

During my previous visits to Hong Kong I have experienced some smaller typhoons before, so I was aware of the typhoon level warning system that Hong Kong operates.

This system is in place since 1884 when the Hong Kong observatory began to monitor the tropical cyclones in the South China Sea.

The signals are classified between level 1 and 10 where level 1 means that a tropical cyclone is within 800 KM range, level 3 warns of strong winds, and level 8 up to 10 means very strong wind or a real typhoon with wind speeds up to 12 Beaufort.

When the warning level 8 or higher is issued, the city enters a complete blackout; all the public transportation stops, government institutions close, and highways will be closed or scaled down. Therefore, usually most companies will shut down their operations and send everybody home. People call it a lucky day, as they can go home and stay with the family. (Usually playing mahjong all day)

And this was the reason..Thank you!
Since this signal was issued in the early morning, everybody could stay inside and have an extra free day.
Unfortunately I didn't watch the news, and just went to work without understanding what was going on. Luckily I saw the sign at the MTR station!

Yes, of course it was windy outside, but being born in Holland, a country where I believe it is windy 300 days per year, the storm that was blowing over Hong Kong that day didn't really impress me.

But now I learned my lesson.. if there is any typhoon nearby, check the weather forecast on an hourly basis, like most Hong Kong people do, and who knows you might be lucky!