After spending a few years living through London’s long cold dark winters and lackluster summers it was quite a change to move to hot and steamy Hong Kong. 

We arrived in Hong Kong in the spring. It rained often and we accumulated a collection of cheap but surprisingly reliable umbrellas purchased when caught out in the rain. One morning Nato needed an umbrella for his walk to work and his only option was a rather feminine umbrella decorated with renaissance cherubs. Our usually stoic doorman smiled and told him that he looked ‘very pretty’.

The weather changes fast in Hong Kong, as shown in this video of a storm rolling across Hong Kong International Airport. To keep abreast of changes, we promptly downloaded the Hong Kong Observatory (HKO) app which provides alerts of various weather conditions such as thunderstorms, heavy rain, hot and cold weather and typhoons.  

May to November is the typhoon season and the HKO app alerts users when each of the five typhoon signals; T1, T3, T8, T9 and T10 are ‘hoisted’. Of these T8 is the magical number as it is when workers are sent home from work. Even an imminent T8 will see workers released so they can get home on public transport before it too closes when the T8 signal is hoisted. Taxis may continue to operate but at exorbitant rates.

Image courtesy of Carol Green @ Flickr

In 2012 we experienced a couple of T1s, T3s and a T8 from 11:00pm to 3:30am – of no use as we were in bed asleep – then in July, Typhoon Vicente blew into town. With talk that T8 would be hoisted around 5pm, and a number of pregnant ladies in the office, my boss sent us all home from work at 4pm. Nato’s evening class was cancelled and we met back at out flat to sit out the storm. The wind howled and fat raindrops blatted on the window panes but we largely slept through even the worst of it; T9 at 11:20pm and T10 from 12:45am to 3:35am. Hopes of a day off were dashed when the T8 dropped to T3 at 10:10am. We trudged to work past uprooted trees and broken brollies with the gumboot clad locals.

The HKO app also sends alerts for thunderstorms and when the amber, red and black rainstorm signals are hoisted. I was looking forward to seeing this strange coloured rain, and was disappointed to find that they just indicated heavy rain exceeding 30, 50 and 70 millimetres in an hour respectively. I was however pleased to discover that like the T8, a black rainstorm warning meant we didn’t have to go to work. Unfortunately for those who do not like Prince, there is no purple rain warning – you’re on your own.

Image courtesy of WordSquatch @ Flickr

HKO also issues cold weather warnings and very hot weather warnings, the criteria for these are not listed but I’ve seen the cold weather warning issued when the temperature is still in double digits, complete with instructions to put on warm clothes and avoid ‘wintry winds’. This is probably appropriate for the locals – I was astounded to see them rugged up in jumpers, coats, scarves and boots as soon as the temperature fell below 20 degrees in December whilst I barely used even the most lightweight of my collection of coats. Conversely, we were feeling the heat well before the very hot weather warnings were issued throughout June, July, August and September – oh the humidity! 

In early May Hong Kong’s buildings switch their climate control to the summer settings, which are so powerfully cold that in addition to carrying an umbrella everywhere I needed to carry a pashmina to guard against the cold of buses and trains, but quickly whip off as I exited into the Hong Kong heat. This is what they should they be issuing the cold weather warnings for – brrr!