Hong Kong Hunkers Down as Super Typhoon Saola Approaches

REUTERS/Tyrone Siu
A girl reads a book at a bookstore, which windows are taped in anticipation of typhoon Saola in Hong Kong, China August 31, 2023.

HONG KONG, Sept 1 (Reuters) – Hong Kong braced for the arrival of Super Typhoon Saola on Friday as authorities raised the strong wind signal to No.8, bringing the city to a standstill with most businesses, schools and the stock exchange shut.

Three tropical cyclones have formed in the northwest Pacific Ocean and South China Sea, with Saola and Haikui already labeled typhoons while Kirogi, the most distant from land, still classified as a tropical storm, according to weather forecasters.

Saola is packing winds of more than 200 kph (125 mph) and will move towards the coast of eastern Guangdong, the neighboring province on the Chinese mainland. It could be among the five strongest typhoons to hit Guangdong since 1949, Chinese authorities said on Thursday as they issued their highest typhoon warning.

Saola is expected to skirt closer to Hong Kong on Friday heading into Saturday morning, causing weather conditions to deteriorate rapidly, the city’s weather observatory said.

It could make landfall Friday night or Saturday morning as a severe typhoon along the coast of Huidong to Taishan in Guangdong, China’s National Meteorological Centre said, while keeping its highest typhoon red warning in place.

The Hong Kong observatory said it would consider the need to issue higher cyclone warning signals later on Friday.

Hong Kong has five rankings for typhoons, 1, 3, 8, 9 and 10, which is the strongest hurricane signal.

All schools in Hong Kong will be closed on Friday, despite being the first day of term for many, the government said. Nearby cities Shenzhen and Guangzhou also closed schools.

Crowds jostled at fresh food markets in Hong Kong’s downtown Wan Chai district on Thursday afternoon with many vegetables already sold out. Supermarkets saw long queues with people stocking up ahead of the storm.

Hong Kong’s Observatory said it expects heavy rain and violent winds while the city’s water level is expected to “rise appreciably” until Saturday, with the potential for serious flooding.

The city’s flagship carrier Cathay Pacific said all flights in and out of Hong Kong between 2 p.m. (0600 GMT)on Friday and 10 a.m. (0200 GMT) on Saturday have been canceled.

Further flight delays and cancellations may be required based on the typhoon’s path on Saturday morning, it said.

Macau’s Weather Observatory said it would raise its wind warning level to signal 8 between 1 p.m and 3 p.m. on Friday. It said it expects to raise it to the highest hurricane signal 10 early on Saturday morning.

Meanwhile, Typhoon Haikui is approaching Taiwan and expected to make landfall on the northern part of the island on Sunday before heading towards the southeastern Chinese city of Fuzhou, according to Taiwan’s Central Weather Bureau.