Hong Kong weather

Typhoon signal downgraded to No 1 as Khanun leaves Hong Kong

City’s seventh typhoon this year disrupted flights but caused minimal damage

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 15 October, 2017, 8:42am
UPDATED : Monday, 16 October, 2017, 8:25am

The Hong Kong Observatory downgraded the typhoon warning signal to No 1 at 10.40pm on Sunday as tropical storm Khanun passed south of the city and disrupted flights but caused minimal damage.

The No 8 signal was issued at 8.40am, and by 7.20pm, it was lowered to No 3.

Macau, still reeling from the destruction of Typhoon Hato in August, also emerged relatively unscathed.

High-level storm warnings rarely come so late in the year – the previous No 8 signal in the month of October was last year when Typhoon Haima hit and before that, Typhoon Sibyl in 1995.

Khanun, a Thai name for jackfruit, was the seventh storm to affect Hong Kong this year and the fifth to activate a warning signal No 8 or above.

On Sunday, Khanun disrupted more than 500 flights as the city was battered with rain and gale-force winds. Tate’s Cairn clocked maximum sustained wind speeds of 102km/h.

Services for ferries, buses and trams were mostly halted, while the MTR operated at lower frequency. Several public events, including the annual Central Rat Race, were cancelled.

The storm swept about 200km south of Hong Kong at about 3pm and was expected to make landfall between Zhanjiang in Guangdong province and Wenchang in Hainan, Xinhua reported, citing the National Meteorological Centre. It issued an orange alert, the second highest of mainland China’s four-tier warning for severe weather.

Hong Kong Observatory senior scientific officer Lee Tsz-cheung said warmer western Pacific Ocean temperatures and a strong subtropical ridge might have provided more favourable conditions for the formation of powerful typhoons this year.

“We expect [Khanun] will continue moving west or west-northwest toward the Leizhou Peninsula and the Hainan Island area,” Lee added.

He warned of possible flooding in low-lying areas in Hong Kong as sea levels half a metre above normal might combine with the evening high tide.

Marine police also rescued 21 trapped campers, mostly tourists from the mainland, who were stranded on Sharp Island off Sai Kung.

According to the city’s Hospital Authority, a total of 22 patients sought medical treatment at public hospitals for typhoon-related injuries during the day. About 202 people took refuge at 21 temporary shelters set up by the Home Affairs Department.

The government received 80 reports of fallen trees. Some of the trees had blocked roads and had to be removed. No reports of flooding or landslides were received.

The road network linking urban areas to the airport was thrown into chaos after temporary traffic arrangements were put in place in response to strong winds on the Lantau Link and several bridges connecting parts of the city to Hong Kong International Airport.

Throngs of airport-bound car passengers stuck in Tsing Yi traffic jams were seen getting out of their vehicles and walking to the nearby Airport Express train station, luggage in tow.

At 8pm, the Airport Authority reported that a total of 479 flights were delayed and 73 cancelled.

Cathay Pacific, Cathay Dragon and Hong Kong Airlines warned passengers there could be potential disruptions to flight operations with more delays or cancellations expected to carry over into Monday.

It was like a normal typhoon this time
Macau lawmaker Sulu Sou Ka-ho

Transport minister Frank Chan Fan said the airport was well prepared for typhoons and expected operations to normalise “very quickly”.

The Airport Authority said both runways would be operating overnight to clear the backlog of flights.

Meanwhile, the Mark Six draw scheduled for Sunday night was postponed to Tuesday due to the earlier No 8 signal. The Hong Kong Jockey Club said all bets would remain valid.

In August, Typhoon Hato, which brought a No 10 signal – the highest in the Observatory’s warning system – slammed into Hong Kong and Macau, killing 10 people in the former Portuguese enclave, grounding flights and cutting water supplies and power to much of the city.

Macau lawmaker Sulu Sou Ka-ho said the Macau Observatory had been more precise in issuing advanced warnings since Hato. “It was like a normal typhoon this time,” he said.

Macau Chief Executive Fernando Chui Sai-on chaired a cross-departmental meeting on Sunday morning to ensure the city was prepared.

Additional reporting by Danny Mok