Hong Kong braces for storm as Typhoon Saola approaches


Schools were closed and flights were canceled as Hong Kong raised its third-highest storm warning early Friday morning for Typhoon Saola, which is expected to hit the city later in the day and could be its worst storm in five years.

Saola lost strong hurricane status as winds decreased from 240 kilometers per hour (150 mph) to 220 kilometers per hour (140 mph), although it was still a Category 4 hurricane. The storm previously struck parts of the northeastern Philippines.

The Joint Typhoon Warning Center expects the storm to approach Hong Kong and southern China’s Guangdong Province on Friday night, but the center of the storm will remain offshore. The storm is expected to weaken as it approaches status as a Category 2 hurricane.

The Hong Kong Observatory (HKO) issued a T8 storm warning signal at 2:40 a.m. local time Friday morning, and it strengthened to lower category T3 Thursday afternoon.

It came after China issued a red typhoon alert, the highest level in a four-level warning system, as Saola approached Guangdong.

In Shenzhen, a high-tech hub bordering Hong Kong, all nurseries, kindergartens, primary and secondary schools have been suspended. The city’s international airport suspended all flights as of midday on Friday.

According to the Xinhua news agency, nearly 4,000 train services were suspended in Guangdong between Thursday and Sunday.

Hong Kong residents stock up as Typhoon Saola approaches on August 31.

During a press conference on Thursday, Hong Kong’s First Secretary, Eric Chan, announced that all schools would be closed on Friday, which was set to be the case. The first day of the school year to most institutions.

Depending on the hurricane’s ultimate path, HKO warned there could be higher signals. The city’s loudest storm warning is the T10 signal, which was last issued in 2018 for Typhoon Mangkhut.

During Thursday’s press conference, experts noted that Saola may reach levels similar to what occurred in Mangkhut, which claimed 10 lives in neighboring Macau and caused severe damage in Hong Kong.

A customer walks past nearly empty shelves in a supermarket as Typhoon Saola approaches Hong Kong on August 31.

Ahead of the typhoon, Hong Kong’s flagship carrier Cathay Pacific suspended all flights to and from Hong Kong from Friday afternoon until Saturday morning, the airline said in a statement Thursday.

“With the exception of CX840/1 September to New York-JFK, all Cathay Pacific flights arriving and departing from Hong Kong between 2pm on Friday 1st September and 10am on Saturday 2nd September have been cancelled.” he said on his website.

Cathay Pacific warned of possible delays and cancellations of additional flights “depending on weather conditions and the path of the hurricane on Saturday morning.”

Cathay Pacific said passengers would be rebooked on the next scheduled flight if their current flight was canceled or delayed. The airline also urged customers to check their flight status before coming to the airport.

Hong Kong Airports Authority’s general manager of operations, Yong Tat-wing, said 366 flights had been canceled while about 40 others were delayed.

Hong Kong is no stranger to tropical cyclones and typhoons, and has generally enjoyed a good record in recent decades of passing through direct hits with low casualty numbers.

The last T8 warning was issued in July for Typhoon Talim and three warnings were issued in the previous year, according to HKO.

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