Thursday, August 24, 2017

My Own Experience: Typhoon Hato Hits Zhuhai

fallen trees on the Lianhua Road Pedestrian street in Zhuhai
Yesterday at the Lianhua Road Pedestrian Street in Zhuhai, China

After seeing a curious tweet early in the early evening two days ago, I discovered Zhuhai had a fair chance of soon being directly hit by a typhoon. I pondered the weather forecast. I pondered the fact that I had recently arrived in Zhuhai and was now staying only a couple of blocks from the water.

I had earlier noticed that rain was headed this way, but Google's concise weather forecast left out the tiny detail of "TYPHOON". The more detailed reports I now checked indicated the typhoon would be classified in the Western Hemisphere as category 1 — the weakest category for hurricanes using the Saffir–Simpson scale which goes up to category 5. I figured my best bet was to ride it out and assume I might not accomplish much the next day. Not deeply concerned but feeling like I might as well get in the spirit, I headed to the supermarket to stock up on supplies — including the ingredients to make my first peanut butter & jelly sandwich in several years.

Long story short, I stayed up very late enjoying most of my emergency supplies, including a bit of gin purchased at a 7-Eleven, while tracking the storm and going down a YouTube rabbit hole. The storm hadn't hit when I finally went to sleep sometime around 7 a.m. When I woke up the storm was over, and my room seemed much warmer. I soon diagnosed the problem: my hotel had no electricity, except a backup supply powering the hallway emergency lights.

After eating another peanut butter & jelly sandwich, I headed out to walk around Gongbei, the subdistrict in Zhuhai with the only land-border between Macau and mainland China. I am no expert on powerful storms, but I questioned how the damage I saw could be the result of just a category 1 storm. And I thought that there surely must be some deaths in the region.

When I arrived at Gongbei Port, the typically busy immigration channel to Macau was closed. One foreigner I met there expressed concern he would not able to cross in time before his Chinese visa expired that day. Before I left the area, though, power had been restored and police were giving signs there was reason for hope. It opened later in the day.

As I walked around other parts of Gongbei during the remaining daylight hours, I saw some areas had their power restored, though some of those remained without running water. Some streets reminded me of scenes in the movie Planet of the Apes. When I returned to my hotel at dusk, this part of Zhuhai still had no power. I decided to stay put expecting that finding a better option would prove too challenging. I successfully took a cool shower in complete darkness, and tried to go to sleep early with the help of some American over-the-counter sleep medicine. I woke up slightly before midnight to discover that power had been restored and turned on the air conditioning before returning to bed.

Today while surveying more of the damage I saw that some parts of Zhuhai still remained without power as of this afternoon. That didn't stop one restaurant from serving its special roasted goose, which I enjoyed while sweating in the heat.

I also learned today that the storm had quickly gained power and made it up to category 3 (category 10 storm, the highest, using Hong Kong's system) before making landfall in Zhuhai. That explains what I have seen much better. At the moment, there are sadly 16 confirmed deaths — 8 in mainland China and 8 in Macau. In a series of later posts, I will share photos capturing capturing some of the damage at various locations in Gongbei, Zhuhai, and how people dealt with it. I will update this post with links to those.

Also, yes, I am obviously no longer in Bengbu. I had planned to continue with Bengbu-themed posts a little longer until the typhoon derailed my plans. Although I don't plan to return to Bengbu in the near future, I hope to post more about it later.

Anyway, admittedly part of me is disappointed to have slept through the biggest storm I have ever experienced. But at least that way I avoided any temptation to immerse myself as I often like to do.

Update: Posts with scenes of damage from Typhoon Hato in Zhuhai:

1. The Lianhua Road Pedestrian Street
2. Near the Water in Gongbei
3. The Bay Bar Street on Shuiwan Road
4. A Fallen Tree on Baishi Road
5. The Midtown Complex
6. More From Gongbei
7. The Recovery

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