Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Bilis Heads for Taiwan

After a solid two weeks of beautiful weather, Taiwan is about to be hit by its fourth typhoon of the year, and at a 100-kilometer radius, Bilis (see mug shot below) looks like it’ll be the biggest yet. Still out in the Philippine Sea, the severe tropical storm, with winds reaching 25 meters per second (or 90 km/h), should hit us sometime tomorrow or Friday. Already, as it swirls towards Taiwan, Bilis has claimed four lives in the Philippines.

Despite the fact that the typhoon hasn’t reached us yet, the past 24 hours have been a schizophrenic blend of sudden extreme downpours and bright sunshine. One minute it’s clear blue skies, the next clouds appear almost spontaneously and down comes the milk-like rain, straight, diagonal, but always torrential. Then, as quickly as it came, it stops, and the umbrellas collectively close like flowers upon sunset. Minutes later, a new cloud arrives, the skies start sobbing anew, and the colorful umbrellas reopen in a frenzy as metallic roofs tap to the cadence of a million machine guns.

In August 2000, a similarly-named super-typhoon (a far more severe category 5, with winds of 140 km/h) caused twenty deaths in Taiwan. When a tropical storm hits, the operative word is: stay indoors, do not venture outside. Despite its being a smaller version of its namesake, Bilis Redux, as I’ll call the current one, risks interrupting exams scheduled for Friday. According to the media, as many as 170,000 Taiwanese students could be affected. Already, businesses are preparing for a typhoon day, meaning that everything will be closed. People who, prior to the arrival of the tropical storm, had already filed requests for Friday off are hurriedly pulling them back, knowing fully that Nature herself will likely be imposing rest on that very same day. In preparation for the almost inevitable hit, people are stocking up on water and emergency food—which thankfully the ubiquitous 7-Elevens around the city have plenty of. Water and electricity shortages usually accompany the severest of storms. It remains to be seen if this Bilis will visit that discomfort upon us.

As Israel bombs Hamas and Hezbollah, bombs go off in Baghdad and India, and North Korea plays bad neighbor, Nature grumbles and inhales deeply before she sets off to remind us, yet again, who’s boss in this world.

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