Aftermath of typhoon Soudelor (from a personal point of view)

Introduction

Soudelor (Hanna) was a Category 5-equivalent super typhoon, and so far the strongest in 2015. The typhoon arrived in the late evening of August 7, and the center made landfall north of Hualien at 4:40 a.m. on August 8. Besides strong winds, the typhoon brought torrential rain causing flooding and landslides. It caused huge damage, leaving eight people dead and 420 injured.

During my life in Taiwan I experienced several typhoons, and up to now for me the strongest typhoon was Soulik in 2013. But Soudelor was so much stronger that it is now my number 1. It also had impact to me, luckily nothing serious: a damaged bike, flooded balcony and staircase. When walking around the area where I live, I was very impressed and shocked about the destruction done by the typhoon. On the other hand, it was also fascinating to see the enormous power of wind and water. In this post I want to share some photos and thoughts from the aftermath of the typhoon. All images are taken from places that I know, and are part of my daily life. Each place I knew before Soudelor crossed Taiwan. Some of them have changed a lot, others will recover soon and in a few weeks they look like nothing happened.

Day 1 – August 8, 2015

In the afternoon the rain stopped, the wind weakened and the typhoon almost left Taiwan. So I decided to go home and check if my apartment is okay. The night before I stayed at another quieter place. On the way I took the first pictures. People started to clean up the streets. But the wind was still strong and some gusts where able to move the debris along the streets. It was still a bit dangerous to be outside.

This lane is near a restaurant street. The sign board on the ground is from a restaurant, which is located about 150 m away. Interestingly it is not in the same lane. The wind managed to carry the sign around the corner of one block and maneuver it into the small lane.

Here the entire sign board came off. Not only this one, I saw even larger boards that fell from houses.

A good indicator for the strength of a typhoon are these crescent-shaped metal covers in the water treatment plant. Only very strong winds manage to let them fly. Same happened during typhoon Soulik in 2013. The sound is quite impressive, like metal is dragged on the street.

Day 3 – August 10, 2015

The weather conditions are back to normal and it was the first working day after the typhoon started. My first shocking experience was to see, that the huge tree, behind the building where I work, collapsed and buried almost the entire bicycle parking lot underneath.

The tree was really big. One of these trees, that look like they are here since hundreds of years. What’s left was a mishmash of wood and bikes, including mine.

The second shocking experience was, when I heard that part of the roof from the building was gone, and the office from a professor was completely destroyed.

The next images were taken from the surrounding of the laboratory where I work. First I didn’t notice it, but on a second sight, I realized that the wind ripped off the metal gate.

The fence from the construction site was blown away. It was a solid metal fence with a roof for the pedestrian. It also had a decorative wall made from flower pots. On the right side of the gate some parts of the original fence are visible.

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The street was full of debris, tree branches, roof parts and overthrown scooters.

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Wearing a helmet was not a bad idea.

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This lane turned into a jungle and was not accessible for two days.

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Day 7 – August 14, 2015

Now nearly one week passed since the typhoon hit Taiwan, and this was the first day I went to the river side of the Xindian River. During the typhoon the entire river side was flooded. The water left a thick layer of sediment and lots of debris. People were busy cleaning up the debris and removing the sediment from the roads and sport fields. But the river side still looks very destroyed. Actually I am not much worried about this, because the river side is made to be flooded. Currently it looks very devastated, but soon rain will wash away the mud, new plants will be planted, and nature will recover. In a few weeks the river side will look like nothing happened before.

During the flood the water level reached the height of the sign on the lamppost. This is about 3 metres high, and this position is nearly 100 metres away from the river bank. Yes, the huge and ugly walls along the rivers in Taipei are definitely needed. Otherwise large parts of the city would have been flooded.

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This was a baseball field.

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And here another view. The flow of the water was so powerful, that almost all sign boards along the river side were dislocated.

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And this was a tennis court.

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When the flood receded, many fish were left on the flood plain and died. This one here is a special example: a South American catfish (Hypostomus plecostomus). This species is not endemic in Taiwan, and was brought many years ago into rivers and lakes and it seems to adapt quite well.

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Water and debris twisted these road signs.

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Another shocking experience. There is a driving range from a golf club along the river side. It seems that this place was completely flooded and destroyed. Except the metal construction of the building nothing was left. When I was there, many people passed by and were puzzled. Seems nobody expected such a kind of destruction.

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The typhoon also left some surprises. Many trees and bushes were removed by the flood, which opened suddenly new insights into before hidden areas. Never saw this ‘parking lot’ of abandoned scooters there, although I passed by this area quite often.

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Not sure if the flood carried the small chair onto the tree or someone put it there. For sure the other things around the tree were left by the flood.

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Immediately after cleaning the roads and sport fields, people came out to use them again, like nothing happened before. I like this attitude here.

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The power of flowing water. It dislocated this big sign including the massive concrete foundation.

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Debris, debris everywhere.

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This street lamp, like many others, could not withstand the pressure of the flowing water.

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The former green meadow is covered now with a thick layer of sediment.

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Yeah, the band survived! But now their feet in a 15 cm thick mud layer.

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Day 14 – August 21, 2015

Now already two weeks passed since the typhoon. Most of the places I showed in the photos are cleaned up, fixed, and look like before. The river side is still devastated and it will take a few more weeks to bring it back to the previous state. Another typhoon named Goni is approaching Taiwan. Luckily it won’t hit the island directly.

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