Typhoon Soudelor Takes Aim at Taiwan and China

A tropical disturbance that was once a powerful super typhoon over the open waters of the Western Pacific earlier this week has now slightly weakened and is taking aim at southeastern Asia.

As of Friday night Soudelor was a typhoon of strength equivalent to a category two hurricane and had just made landfall on Taiwan’s northeast shores. The typhoon packed sustained winds of about 170km/h gusting to over 200km/h Friday night as it made a direct landfall on the island of Taiwan. The biggest threat with the typhoon, however, was rainfall. Taiwan’s rugged terrain meant that orographic lift (lifting of air pushed up the mountains) would greatly enhance precipitation amounts, especially on the north side of the island. Models showed that as much as a metre of rainfall (or more) could fall before it is all said and done.

Visible satellite image of Soudelor at sunrise late Friday evening (our time). (Source: Himawari Sat.)
Visible satellite image of Soudelor at sunrise late Friday evening (our time). (Source: Himawari Sat.)

The effects of typhoon Soudelor are still uncertain as of Friday evening but the Taiwanese authorities reported that there were over 2.6 million residents without power, wreaking havoc on day to day activities as well as travel in the region. In addition to that, as of Friday night there were four confirmed deaths associated with the typhoon, two of which were associated with the storm surge which had the biggest impact on the northeast shoreline. The station that clocked the highest rainfall amounts as of Friday evening was the town of Taipingshan, which was already well over a metre of rainfall (1,241mm). Taipei, which is less than 50km from this town, had already recorded an astonishing 500mm in some parts of the city.

Conditions are expected to continue to be poor until later today, as the heavy rains are expected to continue to fall in the northern half of the country. Soils will become saturated, if not already, and overwhelmed by the rainfall, resulting in mudslides in the mountainous regions – a region of Taiwan which is known to be very prone to these types of disasters. Soudelor’s effect on China isn’t expected to be as severe, but heavy rain/flooding will once again be the main threat as the tropical system moves over China’s mainland and begins to weaken.

Elsewhere in Weather News: December 8th, 2012

Typhoon Bopha Makes Landfall

(Follow-up to last week’s EIWN article “Typhoon Bopha Takes Aim at the Philippines”)

Typhoon Bopha made landfall on Monday, December 3rd, on the southernmost island of the Philippines. The typhoon was classified as a dangerous category five, where winds exceeded 250km/h. As expected with category five typhoons, the devastation and destruction caused extensive damage to infrastructure and crops; one fourth of the banana crops in the region were destroyed. As of Friday, December7th, it was reported that over 500 people had died as a result of the storm, and about 350 were still missing. Rescue workers are working feverishly, looking for survivors assumed to be trapped in their houses because of mudslides, or gold miners trapped in mines. In total, Bopha displaced about 250,000 Philippine residents who mostly took shelter in public buildings to ride out the storm. The Red Cross is providing funds and food to the ravaged country. Bopha appears to be the strongest, southernmost typhoon on record, to have ever affected this region of the Philippines.


Infra-red satellite image of Bopha on Friday evening. It does not have a distinct eye and is showing signs of weakening. Forecast track is in white. (Source: CIMSS)

After Bopha made landfall in the Philippines, it emerged into the South China Sea and has re-strengthened to a category three hurricane with a well-defined eye. Its track has taken a northerly direction which was followed by a north-easterly track, which means its outer bands will affect the north-west islands of the Philippines later this weekend. Bopha will continue its somewhat circular track and is predicted to eventually head out in a south-westerly manner towards Vietnam next week. There is a lot of uncertainty as to what will happen after that, but there are some signs that show the storm will weaken off to a tropical depression.


Incredible damage in New Bataan, a southern Philippine city. (Source: AFP)

In other news, New Zealand experienced its deadliest tornado on record this past week where an EF-2 struck a suburb of Auckland and killed three people. It’s not a common sight to see such a strong tornado in Auckland but the conditions on December 6th greatly contributed to this, as warm, humid air, fueled severe thunderstorms in that area.

Short collection of videos of what it was like being inside the New Zealand Tornado. (Source: AP)

Elsewhere in Weather News: May 12th, 2012

China Gets Battered by Torrential Rains

On the afternoon of Thursday May 10th, the north-west part of China (province of Gansu) saw severe thunderstorms roll through its higher elevations and bring with them dangerous hail and downpours that wreaked havoc across the region. With heavy rains being the most threatening hazard in this part of the country because of the mountains and easily-triggered mudslides, around 3,000 residents were evacuated for precautionary measures in the areas most prone to flooding.

Residents evacuating

After heavy rains fell many residents had to be evacuated or rescued as roads were blocked off. (Source: Shanghai Daily)

As the large hail and heavy rain fell, the Minxian County in the province of Gansu was hit the hardest when 70mm of rain fell in about an hour. Mudslides and large hail impacted the county significantly as they destroyed 7,000 acres of farm fields, closed roads leading in and out of the county including a large interstate, and damaged more than 30,000 houses. The mudslides also sent 40 people to hospital, killed 37 others, and the toll may rise as over 20 other residents are still missing. In total, 17 of the 18 townships in the region were affected – this comprises of one fifth of the county’s entire population. China’s flood control headquarters issued more warnings in the same regions on Friday in an effort to raise awareness about the dangers of flash floods and the need to prepare for another possible bout of heavy rains again this weekend. The Red Cross chipped in by donating quilts and coats to the now homeless, and Chinese government pledged $320,000 to fix damaged schools, hospitals and water treatment plants.

Torrential rains

Roads become small creeks as torrential rains fall in the province of Gansu, China. (Source: China.org.cn)

About 3,000 first response workers, still battling with Mother Nature’s wrath, worked fervently around the clock on Friday evening, one day after the storms struck, to find those still missing.