I’m in an underground cafe today, waiting out Typhoon Bolaven, the biggest storm to hit the Korean peninsula since 2002. With windspeeds of up to 50 meters a second, it’s a ‘super-typhoon’, capable of lifting boulders and people. I only learned about it last night and scrambled to buy tape, newspaper and a flashlight. Then I spent hours packing up the possessions I’d just unpacked last Friday, when I moved into my new apartment. At the time I was impressed at how much light it gets since there are so many windows; now that means more glass to shatter. I used up four rolls of tape and still didn’t cover them all. The eye of the typhoon is off the coast, at least 20 miles away, and my apartment is surrounded on all sides by other buildings, so I’m reasonably confident that, when I return tonight, everything won’t be gone-diddly-on.
But just in case, all my clothes and valuables are in suitcases, the bookcases are laid flat on the ground and all my dishes are inside taped cupboards. I think the biggest risk, apart from shattered glass, is flooding, but the apartment is floored with wood-looking ‘floor paper’, so rain will only clean it. It also turns out that living part-way up a massive hill is an advantage. When up to 2.5 inches of rain is going to fall in a single afternoon, you don’t want to live on low ground. Whatever falls into my apartment will keep rolling downhill.
The government recommended staying at home, and I have friends who are doing just that, but I can think of more pleasant ways to spend a day than sitting indoors, waiting for the gust of wind that will send glass flying over my bed. So I found a bookshop in the vast underground network that lies below Seoul, where I can work, eat cake, listen to British pop and enjoy climate controlled quiet. I expected it to be filled with refugees but it’s relatively empty. In fact, no one seems to be taking it very seriously: my street is full of lovely balconies crowded with plants in pots, and this morning they were still sitting precariously on their ledges, swaying in the increasingly strong gusts of wind. I only saw one other place in my neighbourhood with taped windows. I’m more at risk of my noggin getting a floggin with flying debris from other apartments than being lifted off to Oz.
I will let you know how successful my preparations were.
I’m overwhelmed, too many references. Just watch the episode.
Now the Weather Underground (heh heh) is calling Bolaven a tropical storm. While I’m annoyed that I spent five hours safety-proofing my apartment for a tropical storm, that concurs with what I’m seeing. The cafe (CNN cafe, so-called because it has a TV playing CNN) is right next to stairs leading outside. Bolaven reached Seoul at 2:00pm. Here’s the uneasy sky this morning around 11am:
Looking down my street:
1:30pm outside the cafe. Cool sky but it’s not even raining.
2:30pm. No rain yet. It’s windy but I’m not being blown off my feet. People are walking in and out of the bookshop without umbrellas.
Was the whole thing a damp squib?