Strong winds blew over Hong Kong on Wednesday as Tropical Storm Barijat moved closer to the city but all attention was focused on a larger threat – Super Typhoon Mangkhut – barrelling towards the South China Sea.
On Wednesday afternoon, after typhoon signal No 3 for Barijat had been up for a few hours, the Hong Kong Observatory said the chance of upgrading it to a No 8 was not high.
At 9pm, it said Barijat was about 180km (111 miles) to the south-southwest of Hong Kong and as strong winds were affecting the Pearl River Estuary, Signal 3 would be in effect for some time, but would weaken on Thursday.
The storm was forecast to move west, with wind speeds of 41km/h to 62km/h and gusts exceeding 110km/h (68mph).
Classes at kindergartens and schools for children with disabilities were suspended on Wednesday in anticipation of the strong wind warning, which was issued at 12.20pm.
But apart from gloomy skies, there was no huge downpour with rain affecting only certain parts of the city. The situation was different on the eastern coast of Guangdong province, however, as torrential rain battered cities such as Shantou and Jieyang.
Barijat is expected to make landfall between Maoming in Guangdong and Wanning in Hainan on Thursday, bringing with it heavy rain.
Guangzhou would experience thunderstorms from Wednesday night through Thursday, the Guangdong meteorological authority said.
Flights from major airports in Guangdong province – including Guangzhou Baiyun, Shenzhen Baoan and Zhuhai airports – proceeded normally on Wednesday afternoon but shipping in the Qiongzhou Strait was suspended from 2pm onwards.
Sales of high-speed railway tickets around Hainan for Thursday and Friday were also suspended in preparation for the tropical storm, China Railway Group announced on Wednesday.
The Observatory predicted Hong Kong would continue to experience strong winds that would weaken gradually by Thursday, with skies remaining gloomy and a few squally showers. Rain would be more frequent with thunderstorms at first, and the temperature would be between 26 and 30 degrees Celsius.
Friday and Saturday would be “very hot”, and the weather would worsen as Mangkhut headed towards the city.
“The weather will deteriorate significantly with frequent heavy rain, and seas will be rough with swells on Sunday,” it said.
Mangkhut is forecast to be more powerful than any of the previous typhoons that have warranted Hong Kong’s highest warning signal, No 10. It is predicted to pass within 100km of the city on Sunday.
According to the Taiwan Central Weather Bureau, the super typhoon was predicted to be closest to the island on Saturday, with a maximum wind speed near the centre – used to measure typhoon intensity – of 198km/h (123mph).
The super typhoon will then continue to move west and approach Hong Kong.
While the forecast track indicates the most likely future path of the super typhoon, the path can deviate from predictions.
Under the tropical cyclone classification system, typhoons have an intensity of between 118km/h and 149km/h (73-92mph), severe typhoons range between 150km/h and 184km/h (93-114mph), while super typhoons see a maximum wind speed near the centre of 185km/h (115mph) or above.
Airlines based in the city – Cathay Pacific Airways and Cathay Dragon, Hong Kong Airlines and HK Express – announced they would waive rebooking fees for passengers scheduled to travel on Sunday and Monday, with some conditions attached.
Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon said only tickets issued worldwide on or before Tuesday, September 11, would be eligible for the rebooking and rerouting fee waiver.
Hong Kong Airlines had a similar arrangement for flights between September 16 and 18, while HK Express said it would waive fees for rescheduled trips on the same route but would charge the fare difference if the route changed.
More from South China Morning Post:
- Super Typhoon Mangkhut predicted to be most powerful storm since records began and presents ‘great danger to Hong Kong’
- Taiwan braces for impact as Super Typhoon Mangkhut approaches
- Typhoon season is here – all you need to know in Hong Kong, from signals to free shots
- Signal No 3 to be issued if Tropical Storm Barijat edges closer to Hong Kong as Super Typhoon Mangkhut looms in distance
- Typhoon Jebi relief operation was no time for China-Taiwan debate