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Typhoon Emily: Mainly a lot of rain, like being in UK
2012-08-20
By Emily Ford

I'M leaving my building when Mr Wang, our doorman, tells me there is a typhoon on the way. After Typhoon Vicente decided to stay in Hong Kong, it felt like the storm season may have passed us by. But then Haikui came out of nowhere. "It has left Taiwan!" Mr Wang says. "It is coming to Shanghai!"

I realize I'm not quite sure what a typhoon is, or at least how it is different from other exotic weather events such as tornados or cyclones. In Britain our most extreme climatic quirk is drizzle so endless it grinds you down slowly over months. "I guess it's like the Wizard of Oz," I think dubiously.

Several locals I speak to do not believe the typhoon is going to arrive. "Every year they say a big typhoon is going to hit and they never do," they say, sceptically. "You don't need to worry. It won't arrive."

I start telling everyone that Shanghai doesn't get typhoons. "It won't arrive," I say knowledgeably. "They say this every year but they never arrive."

Typhoon coming!

The next day the wind is battering my balcony with such ferocity that I'm worried the window might blow in. Miles, the cat, is cowering behind the sofa.

Mr Wang is in a state of palpable excitement. "Taifeng lai le!" he says. "Typhoon coming!"

Tragically, I discover that Haikui has already killed several people in the Philippines and Manila is underwater. Zhejiang Province has evacuated 400,000 people. Suddenly the typhoon does not seem as exciting any more.

That afternoon I get a call from a friend of a friend, Sara, who works for CNN.

"We need someone to be on the ground when the typhoon hits," she says in a businesslike manner. "It's scheduled to strike at 7am tomorrow morning. Can you do it?"

No one has ever asked me to be on television before. Even though it will just be my voice, I am flattered. "OK," I say nonchalantly. "Sure, I guess I can do that. What do you want me to say?"

"Just the view from your window," Sara says. "The producers will give you a call at 7am. Then you'll be live on air."

The reason I like writing is because I like having time to edit my thoughts. "You can't do that on television," I realize in a panic. "It has to make sense the first time around."

I am also not at my best in the mornings. I suddenly have a traumatic vision of millions of bemused Americans listening, baffled, to a strange British girl babbling hysterically about rain.

When I get home I look out my window. One of the trees is rustling a bit, but otherwise it is calm. I imagine the scene the next morning, the devastation and chaos.

"Well Sara, it's dark and rainy and all the trees are shaking," I say in my best television voice.

"That won't work," I think, frustrated. "You have to give her more than that."

"Well Sara, what I can tell you is that the wind has been gathering pace and it looks as though we are now, quite literally, in the eye of the storm," I say in a high-pitched voice that I feel conveys an appropriate sense of panic.

"Too dramatic," I think. "Wow, television is much harder than writing."

The next morning I wake up at 8am. "They didn't call," I think, disappointed. I look out the window. The only real change is that the pink underpants my Chinese neighbors like to hang outside their windows are lying soaked on the ground.

It rains for the entire day. The typhoon wind is strong, but mainly it is just a lot of rain. "It's really just like being in Britain," I think.

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