This Typhoon Stuff is Crazy
Just so you all know, I can still count myself – as well as all of my friends and cohorts – among the living and unharmed as we approach the 48-hour mark of Typhoon Morakot wreaking havoc on Taiwan. But that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been a crazy, powerful storm. Goodness, has it ever. It’s the biggest typhoon of the year so far, and one of the biggest to hit Taiwan in quite some time.
In New Orleans, when a hurricane was coming, we usually evacuated – either to Baton Rouge or Texas or wherever we could north or west. Well, you can’t really evacuate here, since, you know, we’re on a small island, and no matter where you go you’re more than likely still somewhere in the storm’s path. You obviously can’t fly anywhere, and boating is not too encouraged in these conditions. So, we’re stuck here. But as I said a couple of nights ago, typhoons aren’t as strong or as powerful as hurricanes. So there’s really not that much danger involved with just staying where you are and riding it out. (Well, that’s true of the Western part of the island, where most of the major cities are. But typhoons always hit the eastern coast of Taiwan first, and the eastern side is far more rural and mountainous. So those living in the east tend to evacuate for storms this intense.)
But yeah, so here we are, in the middle of this soaking wet wind-tunnel, watching the rain race sideways, propelled by some of the hardest winds I’ve ever experienced. It’s like what we always see on the Weather Channel, except it’s outside our windows. It’s not horrible, staying in the hostel most of the day. We have power, and the few people staying here right now are very cool. Although I did get cabin fever last night and took a cab up to my friend Mo’s place – we drank some beers, played some cards and went to bed.
Some of you might think that I’m nuts for venturing out in this weather, but the truth is, I am far from alone. In fact, the weather doesn’t seem to have slowed this town down as much as one might think. There are many, many restaurants and stores that have remained open the whole weekend. In my cab ride last night, there were lots of cars on the road, and even a few brave – or unlucky – scooter riders. When Mo drove me home this afternoon, there were even more cars on the road. It’s just crazy, especially given the fact that, despite the storm traveling through northern Taiwan, it’s our beloved southern part of the island that has by far sustained the most flooding and damage.
Now, as most of you know, I’m in the middle (hopefully the final stages) of a pretty long and arduous apartment hunt. I had arranged to call the landlord of a place I really liked yesterday around noon, and begin the fine art of negotiating with him. But when I went to dial my phone, I was cordially told by a Chinese recording that I was out of minutes. Great. Most people here use a pay-as-you go phone plan, and I am no different. But this just happened to be among the worst times ever to be out of minutes. You can buy minutes at 7-11 (seriously, anything you need is in there). I needed to talk to this landlord, and so I had no choice but to saddle up and ride into the face of Mother Nature’s formidable opposition. I had a rain slicker, thank God, that I bought the day before. So I donned said slicker, affixed my helmet, and mounted my little deathcycle.
The 7-11’s about half a mile from the hostel, so I figured how bad can it be? Well, I’m still alive, but I’m not quite sure how. Luckily, there weren’t many other scooters on the road to contend with (although, again, surprisingly, there were several of them, and lots of cars, and lots of taxis). That was good, because battling the wind and rain was enough. These incredibly powerful gusts would seemingly come one after another, and if they weren’t blowing in from the side and trying to knock you over, they were hitting you straight on, sending millions of little rain pellets darting into your eyes. But I made it there, bought some phone minutes, called the landlord, and was promptly told that he’d just finalized renting the place we liked to a local. So that was a little upsetting. And then I looked outside and saw a big canvas sign across the street ripped from it attachments and thrown down the street like an old washcloth.
The question I’ve gotten the most the last couple of days is, “How are you eating?” The hostel doesn’t really have anywhere to keep or prepare food. There’s only one tiny fridge, no kitchen, and no microwave. Well, there is a Subway nearby, so from 7-11 I got back on the scooter and “raced” to Subway. It was open (again, there are an incredible amount of places that have remained open all weekend). And so I walked in, got a meal, put it in the under-the-seat compartment in the scooter, and drove home – but not without having to come to a complete stop at a couple points to keep myself from getting blown over by a particularly nasty gust of wind. I made a resolution with myself to not get back on the deathcycle while the conditions outside are deathlike themselves.
So for the rest of my meals thus far, I’ve just been donning my slicker and “walking” to and from the Family Mart (like 7-11, but only a couple blocks away). They have microwaves there, so you can buy a little pre-made meal, they’ll heat it up for you, and then you take it home. Of course, walking there means you’re leaning into winds that are trying their damnedest to knock you over; and walking home means having to run with the gales of wind at your back, shoving you along, or risk being pushed down; and all the while rain is hammering you from seemingly every direction. But all in all, the Family Mart food route has worked pretty well. But still… it’ll be nicer when this storm blows over. (Zing!)
Here are some typhoon-related news stories for your preusal:
- Typhoon Morakot causing flooding in southern Taiwan
- Typhoon Morakot Lashes Taiwan, Surges Toward China
- Here’s the results page for Googling “Taiwan ‘typhoon morakot'”