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Hong Kong Typhoon Survival Guide: Warning Signals and What to Do

By Sophie Pettit 9 September 2018
We all know the weather in Hong Kong is unpredictable to say the least, and typhoons (or tropical cyclones) are a big part of life when living in this whirlwind city (pun intended). With typhoon season hitting Hong Kong from May to early November, with a prevalence in September, it's important to know what to do (and not do) when they strike. With this in mind, we explain each warning signal and the best course of action to take when each one is hoisted.

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Warning Signals and What To Do

Signal: T1

A storm has been identified and could potentially turn into a typhoon. But stay seated, don't panic, everything is fine. Your day will continue as usual, just be aware. This sign could be displayed on the Hong Kong Observatory website and app for days, because what it means is that the typhoon is centered within 800km of Hong Kong and could hit within a day or two – or not at all. So stay cool.

What To Do

Keep an eye out for any warnings and leave your Hong Kong Observatory app open. Everything will continue as normal, but avoid going swimming as waves could be swelling high. You should also postpone any trips out to the outlying islands until things calm down.

Signal: T3

There's still no need to panic. When a T3 signal is issued, you can expect heavy rain with strong winds up to 110km. Winds are normally expected to become generally strong in Hong Kong within 12 hours after this signal is issued. Winds over offshore waters and on high ground may reach gale force. Generally, a T3 will occur around a dozen times a year in Hong Kong, i.e. it's pretty common.

What To Do

Public transport will run as normal, but if you live on the outlying islands then the ferries may be cancelled. If you are planning on flying or taking the ferry to Macau, you should double check the schedule before heading out. Kindergartens will close and some stores and businesses might also close. If you have a balcony or a rooftop, then make sure you tie down any loose objects or furniture – and don't leave your washing out!

Signal: T8

Hurray, you get to go home! This signal means that gale winds or stronger winds are fast approaching the city near sea level, with a sustained wind speed of between 63 and 117 km/h from the quarter indicated, and gusts which may exceed 180 km/h. The wind condition is expected to persist, but it's nothing to worry about, as plenty of warning is usually given hours before a T8 signal is issued, giving you ample time to get home. This signal tends to only last for a day or even less, however everything closes when the signal is hoisted, including all public transport, schools, shops, restaurants, ferries, trains, and flights. A T8 signal is generally issued about once or twice a year, so not too often.

What To Do

You should stay indoors and make sure your doors and windows are firmly shut. If you live in an older apartment, tape your windows as this will minimise the possibility of injury if the window shatters. You have about two hours to get home from the moment a T8 signal is hoisted, and public transport should still be running. However, everything will shut down after two hours or so until the signal is lifted and everything returns to normal.

Signal: T9

At this moment you should be at home watching Netflix with a cup of tea, because a T8 signal would have already been hoisted. A T9 signal is very rare, but when it does get issued, this means that gale winds are increasing or are expected to increase significantly in strength from between 180km/h and 220 km/h. 

What To Do

When the T9 signal is issued, you should follow the same directions as with a T8. Stay indoors and away from exposed windows to avoid flying debris. Try to remain calm and follow the news for any updates. Get some board games out, turn on Netflix, and stay put until things calm down outside. Once the T9 signal is lifted, it might take a little longer for everything to get back to normal, but Hong Kong is pretty adept in these situations.

Signal: T10

Ok, so things are pretty serious now, but fear not because Hong Kong is extremely skilled when it comes to dealing with typhoons. It is not very often that we see the issuing of the ultimate tropical cyclone warning signal of T10, but when we do, this means that the storm is passing very close or directly over Hong Kong, so you could potentially be in the eye of the storm. This signal means that hurricane force wind is expected or blowing with sustained speed reaching upwards from 118 km/h and gusts that may exceed 220 km/h. 

What To Do

Again, you should follow the same directions as with a T8 and T9 signal. Stay indoors and away from exposed windows to avoid flying debris, making sure to tape your windows to minimise the possibility of injury if it shatters. Try to remain calm and follow the news for any updates. Once the T10 signal is lifted and the storm has passed, it might take a little longer for everything to return to normal around the city.
For more information on typhoons and what to do during them, click below:
Read more! Want to know more about typhoons in Hong Kong? Check out this footage from the 1953 storm.

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Sophie Pettit


Sophie is always on the lookout for a great story and her next big adventure and loves nothing more than discovering the city’s hidden gems—and most delicious cocktails. When she’s not exploring new places, she’s off travelling and ticking countries off her bucket list.