Sunday, September 2, 2012

Typhoons in Korea

I never thought about facing a typhoon while living in Korea. I thought those things were for more tropical destinations or Southern US, but Korea? No.

So when we started hearing reports of Typhoon Bolaven coming our way I thought, "Oh, yeah. Sure. It'll probably be over by the time it gets to Korea." I was just expecting a little more rain than usual and maybe a little extra wind.

Then I looked at the satellite pictures. "Oh, shit."

photo from Nasa
August 27th, 2012
The storm was set to his us sometime tonight or tomorrow morning. First, our morning classes got cancelled but not even for sure. All the elementary school kids were telling us that school was cancelled the next day due to the typhoon. None of them looked too worried, but hey, they're kids.

Then as we were leaving our director told us, "We're probably not having morning classes, but if we call you then you'll have to come in. If we don't call you, just come in at 2pm." Yay! Morning off!! 

That night we spent listening to the wind howl outside and checking the storm's progress online. We didn't really know what to do other than stay inside. We would occasionally open the door to peek outside at the trees blowing in the crazy winds and then close it when the windows on our balcony rattled threateningly. We eventually went to bed at 2am since we might have had to work in the morning if it died down.

August 28th, 2012
It did not die down. We both got woken up at about 5:30am by loud crashing and howling winds. We got up to watch the trees, tweet, and check the satellite pictures. It was exciting and I had never been happier to live in a sturdy, concrete building.

We were up when the sky got brighter to signal the sun coming around our way. The wind was impressive. It wasn't so much raining as it was water flying through the air, sometimes completely horizontal. We were soon tired on so little sleep and went to back to sleep.

There was more of the same, gradually decreasing in strength. It was pretty much over by 3:00 or 4:00pm. We ended up not going in at 2:00pm and getting the whole day off.

That night we went for a walk around our neighborhood to check out the damage. There were a lot of green leaves strewn about, branches/twigs broken, and a few fallen trees, which had already been cut up and cleared off the side in neat stacks. People were already hard at work cleaning everything up!

August 29th, 2012
On my walk to work, I looked for signs of the typhoon that had raged just 24 hours before. There were piles of leaves, twigs, and branches everywhere and I saw a truck filled with such piles. Nothing was too bad. Anything that had fallen was in the process of getting picked up and carted away. The most significant thing I saw was the metal wall of the cardboard recycling place that had been bent (pictured below).




Of course, I talked about the typhoon in all my classes and the kids told stories of windows being broken in their apartments or their neighbors apartments. One of my student's extended family lives on an island west of Mokpo and had some terrible news. The roof of her grandmother's house had gotten blown off and her cousin's house was flooded waist deep with water and debris. We got off easy.

Two days later, what was left of Typhoon Temblin hit us. It was nothing more than wind and water. It had been downgraded to a tropical storm, and we weren't worried about it.

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