Hong Kong raised its storm alert to the second-highest level and warned it may issue its maximum hurricane signal as Typhoon Koinu draws closer to the city than previously forecast.
(Bloomberg) — Hong Kong raised its storm alert to the second-highest level and warned it may issue its maximum hurricane signal as Typhoon Koinu draws closer to the city than previously forecast.
The Hong Kong Observatory issued the rarely-used No. 9 storm alert at 7 p.m. Sunday, saying winds are expected to increase significantly. The weather agency said it will assess the need for the No. 10 signal, according to a statement on its website. The highest alert is defined as hurricane-force winds with a sustained speed of 118 kph and gusts that may exceed 220 kph.
The typhoon, which has 140 kilometer per hour (90 mph) winds near its center, has taken a more northern track toward the city in the past couple of hours and will pass within 60-70 km of Tsim Sha Tsui on Sunday night, the Observatory said.
“The eyewall of Typhoon Koinu is gradually approaching the vicinity of the Pearl River Estuary,” the Observatory said. “Under the influence of Koinu, gale winds are affecting many places over the territory, with occasional storm force winds offshore and on high ground.”
Hong Kong raised its No. 10 signal last month for the first time in five years when Typhoon Saola pummeled the territory. The last time the city issued its maximum hurricane warning twice in the same year was in 1964, when it was hit by typhoons Ruby and Dot.
In the past hour, the maximum sustained winds recorded at Tate’s Cairn — a peak in Kowloon — was 103 kph, with maximum gusts exceeding 132 kph per hour.
The typhoon’s approach comes after the city experienced repeated bouts of extreme weather in recent weeks. In addition to Saola, record-breaking rain caused by the remnants of Typhoon Haikui flooded streets, submerged vehicles and triggered landslides. A lack of forewarning about the intensity of the rain prompted public criticism of authorities.
Hong Kong insurance claims caused by natural disasters may climb to a record and exceed $500 million this year should Koinu bring more heavy rain and cause flood losses, Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Steven Lam said in a note.
Hong Kong’s Weather Is Getting Hotter, Wetter and Wilder
The unique topography of Hong Kong — roads and buildings cut into steep hillsides — makes the city vulnerable to flooding and landslides from torrential summer rains that have steadily intensified over time due to climate change.
Most of the city’s main entertainment centers including Disneyland and Ocean Park announced they were closed Sunday because of the weather, while the Hong Kong Jockey Club canceled its horse-race meeting in Sha Tin. Authorities said a total of 27 temporary shelters operated by the District Offices would be open for people in need.
The Observatory didn’t provide an estimate for when the city may lower its storm signals. If No. 8 or higher are still in place in the morning, schools will remain closed along with many businesses, while no stock market trading would take place until the warning is lowered to below 8.
Typhoon Koinu, which means puppy in Japanese. earlier brushed past the southern tip of Taiwan, killing one and injuring more than 300 people, according to official figures. Despite projections by regional observatories that the storm would continue to weaken after passing Taiwan, Koinu rebuilt its eyewall and regained strength.
–With assistance from Jane Zhang and Shiyin Chen.
(Updates to add storm warning raised from first paragraph.)
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