HK caught unprepared as year's first typhoon signal No. 8 issued

July 31, 2019 14:37
Residents rush home in strong winds and heavy rain as the city sees its first typhoon signal 8 of the year on Wednesday afternoon. Photo: RTHK

The Observatory issued the first Storm Signal No. 8 of the year at 1:40 p.m. today as Typhoon Wipha approached Hong Kong, prompting many office workers to rush home in strong winds and heavy rain.

In the morning, the weather bureau raised Signal No. 3 and said there was a “low chance” that the storm warning would be raised further.

But Wipha had since taken a more northerly track than earlier expected, according to the observatory, and the winds were forecast to strengthen further in the afternoon. 

Winds with mean speeds of 63 kilometers per hour or more are expected from the northeast quarter. Signal No. 8 is expected to remain in force for the rest of the day.

At 2:00 p.m., Wipha was centered about 340 kilometers south of Hong Kong, and is forecast to move northwest at about 15 kilometers per hour towards the vicinity of western Guangdong.

According to the observatory, Wipha will edge gradually closer to the coast of western Guangdong and will be closest to Hong Kong later today, skirting around 300 kilometers to our southwest.

The education bureau had closed schools for the day, while authorities urged office workers to head home.

The city’s financial markets shut early and would not reopen on Thursday if the typhoon signal remains at 8 or higher at 9 a.m. Trading will be suspended for the whole day if the storm signal is still at 8 or higher at noon on Thursday. 

With Signal No. 8 hoisted, ferry services to outlying islands were being suspended.

Rail operator MTR Corp. is increasing the number and frequency of trains to accommodate more people who are coming home.

However, services in open sections of the railway as well as Light Rail and MTR Bus may be suspended at any time without prior notice if winds become too strong, it said.

Should Storm Signal No. 9 be issued, services in open sections of the railway, Light Rail and MTR Bus may be suspended immediately for the sake of safety, it added.

Open sections include the East Rail Line, Ma On Shan Line, Airport Express, Disneyland Resort Line, Tsuen Wan Line – between Tsuen Wan Station and Lai King Station, Kwun Tong Line – between Choi Hung Station and Tiu Keng Leng Station, Island Line – between Heng Fa Chuen Station and Chai Wan Station, Tung Chung Line – between Kowloon Station and Tung Chung Station, South Island Line – between Admiralty Station and Lei Tung Station, and West Rail Line – between Tsuen Wan West Station and Tuen Mun Station. MTR will maintain limited train service in underground sections.

Flights may be affected by the weather, the Airport Authority said as it advised passengers to stay alert of airline announcements and confirm their flights before heading to the airport.

The Office of the Communications Authority warned that congestion in telecommunications networks may occur.

"If your phone calls cannot get through instantly or you experience very slow broadband services, please try again later to avoid further burden on the networks," it said.

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