Sunday, October 24, 2010

Hong Kong - typhoons in the past and future

2009 Typhoon Molave (signal no.9, 15 July, 2009 14 HKT to 19 July, 2009 08 HKT) - News report at Tsim Sha Tsui Ferry Pier. Typhoon is all about the fun except when reported on news.

2009 Typhoon Koppu - (signal no. 8,13 September, 2009 08 HKT to 15 September, 2009 08 HKT) Video taken by extreme storm chase, James Reynolds, at Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront.

2008 Typhoon Nuri (signal no.9, 17 August, 2008 08 HKT to 23 August, 2008 02 HKT) News report clips of more activities at the waterfront, including typhoon surfing at the beach.

1972 The most severe flooding event in Hong Kong leading to landslides and collapsed buildings.

1962 Typhoon Wanda (signal no.10, 30 August, 1962 20 HKT to 02 September, 1962 01 HKT) Record-breaking typhoon in severity and damage done to the city. Reason due to its track across Hong Kong on the south, the city was on its windy right side for a prolonged period of time. The video also show the hoisting of typhoon signals, not figuratively but physically, at the signal stations. There were 24 signal stations on islands and along waterfront of Hong Kong that signaled to mariners both in Victoria Harbour and South China Sea. The practice was only recently decommissioned in 2002.

1960 Victoria Harbour in comparison to today's skyline. The buildings hide the landscape, but the storm hides them all. Victoria Harbour is the dividing water between Hong Kong Island on its south and Kowloon on its north. All of these clips are facing the Hong Kong side of the harbour, where the earliest British settlement was, and so as the current skyline of the city. The difficult hilly terrain was once the dominant feature of the island (and partially the reason it was chosen as the concession to the Great Britain), but it did not stop skyscrapers from anchoring upon it. But what happens when these skyscrapers are in direct interface with the wind and the rain? If only they can retreat back to the landscape, or simply disappear.

1953 Typhoon Susan


2008 Super Typhoon Viper - fictitious super typhoon filmed by the Discovery Channel series named the "Perfect Disaster". It provides a good introduction to the formation of typhoon in the Northwest Pacific and the possibility of a super typhoon in the near future, and how Hong Kong is especially prone to its devastation due to its geological conditions. The over-dramatization of the storm was almost less than convincing, but it mentioned several precautionary measures currently undertaking in the city, including - one of the strictest building codes in the world, underground water tanks that hold 100,000 cubic meter of rainwater, concrete-covered slopes to prevent landslides.

The film expressed a certain optimism in the current weather technology, but here's another perspective:

"The fact is that a high level of 'sensitivity' to climate has persisted throughout the twentieth century and into our own time. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, it was believed that technological progress would ultimately succeed in freeing man completely from the influence of nature. Towns in particular, 'artificial' spaces detached from the environment, were seen as offering their inhabitants protection from the hazards of the weather (whereas traditional rural societies, working to the rhythm of the season, were exposed to them)."

Counterintuitive to the contemporary mindset, perhaps the author is right in pointing out the delicacy of an urban city. The more bracings we add onto skyscrapers, the closer we situate the defenseless modern man in direct encounter with the storm. Being in the open habourfront is in no comparable risk than being in an high rise apartment with a broken window, or a midlevel condominium staged in a possible landslide.

"In fact, a double-edged process was under way: man was becoming both more powerful and more dependent. Population growth and density, especially in already overcrowded urban centres, creates new dependences sometimes more exacting than those experienced by traditional societies. Moreover, the risk of natural and technological disasters has intensified; think of the real or potential threats posed by earthquakes, nuclear accidents, floods, etc...The vagaries of the weather expose the fragility of transport systems and other infrastructure. Heavy rain, snow and cold spells are always likely to produce disasters, or at least disruption In some respects, the pre=industrial world enjoyed a greater degree of security: needs were less and the range of problems more limited. There was no risk of power cuts, failed heating systems or traffic jams." Lucian Boia, The Weather in the Imagination, p.96-97

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