In our brief time in Hong Kong, we have managed to rack up a shocking record of getting caught in appalling Friday night weather. I can think of at least 3-4 occasions where we have been invited out on a Friday night and turned up all flustered and wet having made a mad dash from taxi to building in a torrential downpour.
Last Friday night was no exception. For a few days I’d heard rumours that a tropical cyclone was due to hit Hong Kong that weekend but didn’t concern myself too much about it as I didn’t have too many plans to go out to sea, trek on high ground or whatever else you’re not meant to do in cyclone conditions.
One of my new favourite apps is my Hong Kong Observatory app which gives me detailed weather forecasts and I get a notification every time any kind of weather warning is issued such as ‘very hot weather’, ‘thunderstorm’, rain level warnings and tropical cyclone warnings, amongst others. From what I understand the tropical cyclone warnings start at level 1, then 3, 8, 9 and 10. I have no idea why but that’s what it is. I’d already seen a few level 1’s issued over the past few months which were a bit odd as these were often on a lovely day! Someone told me that the warnings are related to how close Hong Kong is from a tropical cyclone, rather than the strength of the cyclone. All I thought I needed to know is that if a level 1 is issued, or ‘hoisted’ as they say officially, just carry on as normal. If a level 3 is issued, nurseries have to close and you should stay indoors and definitely get off high ground as it’s really quite windy and rainy. Level 8 starts to be serious – taxis are not insured to take passengers, offices and businesses have to close and employees in any position anywhere are sent home. As for 9 & 10? Er, hide under a table & pray?!
So back to last Friday night. We were invited out to dinner with another family to friends who are sadly leaving Hong Kong to move back to London. They were kind enough to say we could also bring Dan’s parents who were staying with us and I knew they had gone to a lot of catering effort and expense for us so pulling out due to the threat of bad weather wasn’t really an option and we didn’t really think there would be too much problem.
These friends live in Stanley which is about a 30 minute cab ride away and in Hong Kong terms, is FAR away! Stanley is about as far from us as you can get on Hong Kong Island but not exactly far by London standards. At about the time we set off on our way, a Tropical Cyclone level 3 was hoisted. All was still ok, it was only raining and a bit windy. Actually, the coastal drive on the way there was really quite windy but we made it there safe and sound and had a lovely evening, whilst keeping an eye on my trusty weather app the whole time!
Towards the end of the evening we saw notification that a level 8 was going to be hoisted in about an hour’s time. This gives people warning to get where they need to get to, take plant pots off their balconies etc. Great, we were in Stanley with the whole family, no car, and the prospect of hailing a cab in the driving wind and rain was really not that appealing.
Our fabulous friends kindly offered to drive us home even though it was plainly obvious that was the last thing they wanted to do, I mean who would in that weather?! So we all piled in to their car and then as luck would have it a taxi pulled in to their complex to drop someone off and was happy to take our fare to drop us home as not many people were foolish like us to leave themselves with a long journey to do on a night like this!
Typically, Joshua worked himself up into a palarva and was petrified that we were all going to be swept away Wizard of Oz style so he was whimpering most of the way home until he fell asleep. When we got back, the rain was literally like stepping into a power shower and the strong wind didn’t help. It was only a matter of dashing from the cab into our building which doesn’t seem so challenging now in hindsight but Dan got out first, made it to shelter but then decided to dash back to the cab to yell something like, “Quick! Everyone! As fast as you can!” Just what any parent with a child who is rigid with fear should say! The sobbing started again but once we were all safely inside, Joshua calmed down and was asleep the second his head hit the pillow. I did debate sleeping under the dining room table with my duvet just in case the weather got worse but thought that would be a bit over-cautious!
The weather didn’t get any worse, signal 8 went back down to a 3, then a 1 and by morning it was just dull and a bit drizzly. The wind had gone so our first tropical cyclone visit was apparently over.
Joshua now checks the Hong Kong observatory app daily in case anything other than blue sky and sunshine is forecast and was very relieved when last night I told him we were going to friends for dinner – but they only live 3 floors down!