Monday, September 20, 2010

Storm Chasers: Driving into the Belly of the Beast

Typhoon Fanapi, Sunday Afternoon
We’d heard the news and didn’t quite know what to expect. Wind speeds estimated at 144 km/hr (90 mph) gusts up to 180 km/hr (112 mph). We were expecting big rain and high winds. The rain started Saturday night. We’d have blasts of rain then it would stop or rain lightly. The wind would occasionally gust, bet never really seemed to reach any kind of high speeds.

The mountainous spine of Taiwan seemed to take the brunt of the storm. A friend who lives in the mountains said trees were blowing over and the rain was falling. Because of the conditions his family stayed home. But Taoyuan City was a different story. We continued to do what we always do. People were having barbeques to celebrate the upcoming Moon Festival. They were riding scooters, in fact, life seemed pretty much the same as always, without much concern for the typhoon
The path of the Typhoon

It’s kind of interesting, I think, because when you hear about a hurricane about to hit Florida or somewhere in the U.S. people get evacuated, the freeways are jammed. It’s a big mess, but none of that happened here. Six thousand were evacuated from potential mudslide areas in Hualien but that was it. Maybe three thousand cars, that’s not even rush hour. Life in Taiwan, in the face of the typhoon, just continued to happen.

Where we live we didn’t experience anything except some rain, so Emily and I decided to be…Storm Chasers…

We had visions of taking the old Mondeo and driving right into the belly of the beast. We planned to face down danger and drive right down the throat of the storm. As they heard about it, people began throwing around words like: Intrepid: Courageous: Fearless: Stupid (Where’d that come from?). We armed ourselves with video and still photography equipment and headed for the mountains…In Search of Typhoon Fanapi.

Typhoon Fanapi has passed
We drove with the windows down, we wanted to feel the relentless power of the wind, we wanted to hear the full-throated roar of power. We drove all the way to ShihMen Reservoir, looking for roads that would take us from the sheltering embrace of the city and expose us to the savage battering of gale force winds. But, in the end we were disappointed. Fanapi, as far as we were concerned, was a flop. In fact, at one point we stopped to photograph a footbridge and the place was teeming with sightseers, tourists. Tourists…in a typhoon, who would have ever thought? We never found the wind, never saw the devastation; we had driven into the belly of the mouse.

Fanapi facts: As of September 20, Fanapi was being blamed for 75 minor injuries. There were three vehicle accident related deaths, but no deaths directly attributed to the typhoon as it crossed Taiwan. Damage was estimated at $3.87 Million USD.

source: typhoon images and maps

Other Posts you might be interested in:

Typhoon Conson:  Here It Comes
Typhoon Conson:  How Did We Cope

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