I was in Taiwan recently when the super Typhoon Soudelor barreled across the island of 23 million people. The angry typhoon left a trail of destruction and immeasurable emotional despair.
I was inside a 45-storey hotel in Kaoshiung when Typhoon Soudelor made its landfall at 5am of 8th August 2015. The local media bravely captured a video clip of the furious wind whipping up a motorcycle. It flew several metres into the air before it came crashing down and shattered to pieces.
Over at the eastern county of Yilan, cargo trains topple onto their side.
As Typhoon Soudelor unleashed its rageful windforce across Taoyuan International Airport, a 747 cargo airplane weighing more than 10 tonnes, was even lifted off the ground several times.
Meanwhile, at the capital city of Taipei, a 600-tonne ferries wheel rotated about 17 times its normal speed as the typhoon's fierce gusts blew past.
Since I survived and was almost blown over by this experience, some of my friends insisted that I share what I have learnt.
1. When is the typhoon season in Taiwan?
Most typhoons hit Taiwan during the summer months, between July and September. There are usually four or five typhoons a year.
2. What does "typhoon" mean?
The word "typhoon" comes from the mandarin term 'ta feng', which means big winds. It's the same thing as a hurricane in the USA or a cyclone in Britain - a powerful storm that brings intense rain and fierce winds.
3. What does it feel like to be in a typhoon?
If it's a big one like the recent super Typhoon Soudelor, you'll definitely feel it no matter if you're indoor or outdoor.
From the "comfort" of your apartment or hotel high-rise, you'll hear the strong wind howl. It can be quite scary. The joints in the building will groan as they vibrate to the windforce. The intense rain will batter against the window glass and seep into unsealed cracks in the building.
If you're outside, you'll have a very clear idea of what it is like inside a giant laundry washing machine.
Landslides occur frequently when rainfall is significant. So, it is best to steer clear of hazardous mountainous areas.
|People hurrying home struggle against strong winds as Typhoon Soudelor makes a landfall in the east coast of Taiwan on August 8, 2015. --REUTERS PHOTO|
Road signs and trees are uprooted. Power lines get cut and supply is off, windows shatter, and floods swamp low-lying area. People hurrying home can get blown over. In the worst case, some people can be whipped up by the wind and slammed against other objects.
4. Where to get information?
Every time a typhoon approaches the island, TV and radio stations immediately give live coverage. TVBS - Channel 56 (Mandarin language) is where you can see how damaging the situation is and if there's going be work or school on typhoon days.
TaiwanNews.com gives regular typhoon updates that are usually very helpful. The Central Weather Bureau Website check forecasts about typhoons and issues reliable weather reports. You can see animated satellite images, real-time conditions all over the island, a typhoon's current position and expected path, its strength and many more cool stuff.
5. If I am travelling to Taiwan, how should I prepare for typhoons?
Find out about train and flight re-scheduling and travel insurance. Stay tuned to the latest weather bulletin.
If you need to step outside during a typhoon, put your laptop, MP3 player, handphone and passport in plastic bags. Also get a good rain-cover for your backpack. Wear rubber-soled sandals that have steadfast grip and prevents against accidental electrocution from fallen live wires.
Rubber bands are useful during a typhoon. I have very long hair and I forgot to tie it up. When the wind blew as I step outside of the hotel lobby, my crazy hair lashed its fury at my own face. Uuugghh! It hurt.