Friday, August 21, 2015

taiwan's love-hate relationship with typhoons

Just two weeks ago, Typhoon Soudelor struck Taiwan head on and wreaked all kinds of havoc across the island. Sadly, a handful of people died. Thousands more trees died. Property damage was extensive. And a village that had been evacuated was basically taken out by a mudslide. Now, Typhoon Goni is knocking on the door.

Let's get real: typhoons are super destructive.
They are also really common in this region.
And they are a much needed nuisance.
Last spring, Taiwan was on its highest level of water rationing due to a severe nation wide water shortage. The island depends on its reservoirs to water the people and land, and those reservoirs were scarily empty. The water rationing was no joke either (not like telling the people of California not to water their lawns).

For two consecutive days, a county would have no running water. None at all. That means no showers, no flushing toilets, no water to do the dishes. Nada. The worst thing? Schools and other work places were not closing either! Can you imagine that?
The government had counties on a rotating schedule going counter clockwise. Hsinchu City, where I live, was next in line when fate intervened and we experienced one week of intense tropical thunderstorms. Rain started to fill the reservoirs ever so slowly, and the government lifted its highest level of water rationing.

Okay, but what does all of this have to do with typhoons? Taiwan had not been directly hit by a typhoon for over a whole year at the time of the shortage. That was one big reason why the shortage happened in the first place. Coupled with an unusually dry rainy season, the island was in crisis. Taiwan absolutely depends on at least one typhoon hitting a year to fill up its reservoirs.
After Soudelor, Taiwan's reservoirs are at a healthy and comfortable capacity. So even though the damage took days to clear and some people had broken windows and other annoyances, I have to think that people are still somewhat happy to know that Taiwan will get rain water from more than one typhoon this year.

While we are not expecting a direct hit from Goni, much of the island is expecting a breezy & soggy weekend. I, for one, am extremely happy that when school starts, running water and flushing toilets will be a part of the experience.
FYI: All of these photos were taken in my neighborhood after Soudelor blew out of town. Due to Hsinchu City's location, we are often spared the worst of any given storm. Mountains buffer our wind and catch a lot of our rain. Still, many tress were down and clean up took a few days. We are very grateful for the crew who worked tirelessly to remove the debris from the roadside.


  1. I can't believe that one typhoon alone can be enough to fill up the country's water reservoirs for a whole year! I do can believe what a destructive power a typhoon then probably has though. It must be crazy!!

    1. Not for a whole year, but enough that the rainy season can make up for the rest. We were in so much trouble because there was no typhoon at all and a unusually dry rainy season. Typhoons can provide many months of water for Taiwan though! It's pretty impressive; Soudelor dumped 52 inches of rain water on one town alone.

  2. I'm amazed that the water gets turned off in places like schools. I work in a school and can just imagine how bad it must be if the toilets aren't flushed!

    1. It's a little stinky, and there is A LOT of hand sanitize and water bottles involved!

  3. Love the last pic. And thank you for the Taiwan water/typhoon information. I had no idea.

    1. Thanks. We didn't realize how crucial typhoons were to Taiwan until we started hearing about the drought. Then, everyone was talking about that summer of no typhoons.


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