Signal downgraded to No 1 for tropical cyclone Roke as conditions improve in Hong Kong
Hong Kong Book Fair temporarily closed, and 56 flights delayed so far after squally showers and thunderstorms hit city
The Hong Kong Observatory has downgraded the tropical cyclone warning, issuing a No 1 signal at 3.10pm on Sunday as Roke began to depart the territory.
The forecaster earlier dropped the No 8 signal to No 3 at 1.20pm.
Roke had made landfall at Sai Kung East Country Park at 10am, the forecaster said, but winds since then have continued to drop.
Flights were affected by the tropical cyclone, according to a spokesman for the Hong Kong International Airport, who said 334 flights had been delayed by 5pm, while seven were cancelled. He advised travellers to check the airport’s website before leaving for the terminal. Cross-border ferry services have also been cancelled.
Meanwhile, the Hong Kong Book Fair was temporarily closed. Book lovers hoping to visit the fair at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai should pay attention to the latest weather arrangements.
According to the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, if the No 8 signal is cancelled at or before 4.30pm, the fair will reopen to the public two hours after the signal is cancelled. Exhibitors will be allowed to enter the fairground for preparation 30 minutes after the signal No 8 is cancelled if the situation allows.
Despite the storm, MTR services were expected to run as normal. However, all local ferry services have been suspended.
The No 8 signal earlier also forced Hong Kong’s two major theme parks, Ocean Park and Disneyland, to close today.
At the city’s airport, groups of passengers crowded around gate information boards to wait for updates to their flight departure times.
Australian physicist Josh Richards, who was making a stop in Hong Kong on his way to Perth, Australia, from Los Angeles, said the bad weather meant that he would miss his connecting flight to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia.
“It’s been a long trip,” the 32-year-old said. “It’s unfortunate and frustrating.
“But every stage of my trip has been like this. I left Los Angeles at 4am local time on Saturday; I was delayed there too after the plane tractor crashed into our nose landing gear before we were due to take off.”
Earlier in the day, the Observatory warned Hongkongers that certain locations would become exposed to high winds as the cyclone moved from east to west across the territory.
“Members of the public should stay on the alert,” a spokesman said.
As of 9am on Sunday, the maximum sustained winds were 44 kilometres per hour, with maximum gusts 73 kilometres per hour. These were recorded at Tap Mun, an island in Hong Kong located in the northeastern part of the territory.
Hongkongers were warned to stay away from the shoreline and refrain from participating in water sports.
The Observatory issued a strong wind signal No 3 at 3.40am on Sunday, hours after it said upgrading the standby No 1 signal was unlikely. That signal was issued at 3.40pm.
“The circulation of Roke is small, but is edging closer to the vicinity of the Pearl River Estuary, posing a threat to Hong Kong,” the forecaster said.
Hong Kong is expected to experience a cloudy Sunday with squally showers and thunderstorms.
“Showers will ease off on Monday, becoming fine and very hot in the following few days,” the forecaster said.
Though the city experienced some travel problems due to Roke, Hong Kong drivers using a new payment system for tolls at Shing Mun Tunnels did not encounter any issues.
Shing Mun Tunnels are the first of eight government-run tunnels and highways to implement the new “pay-and-go” system, which allows Hongkongers to use their Octopus or credit cards to pay toll charges. The programme will be rolled out in phases until July next year.
The remaining seven tunnels and highways are Aberdeen, Cross-Harbour, Lion Rock and Tseung Kwan O tunnels, the Eastern Harbour Crossing, the Tsing Sha Highway and the Lantau Link.
A driver from the Post tested the new service twice on Sunday. The first trip from Tsuen Wan to Sha Tin took about two seconds, with the driver paying the HK$5 toll by tapping an Octopus card on the machine next to the manual toll booths. But the Octopus card did not have sufficient funds for the return trip, so the toll booth operator asked the driver to use cash instead. The payment process took about 10 seconds.
Those who do not have an Octopus or credit card can pay for the charges through the existing Autotoll automatic payment system or by using cash.