I woke up before six o’clock this morning to the sound of strong winds outside. I knew that we were supposed to have a typhoon come through, but typhoons in Seoul generally just mean heavy rains. Rarely do we get typhoon-force winds in Seoul proper.
This morning, however, was different. It’s been a long time since I’ve heard winds like that. In 1995 I was in Tokyo for what was at the time the worst typhoon to hit the area since World War II, and I also remember a pretty violent hurricane hitting New York when I was young. Typhoon Kompasu, the seventh storm of the season wasn’t quite as strong as those storms, but it was still more than we’re used to here. From what I’ve heard, it was the strongest storm to hit Seoul in 15 years (which, incidentally, is almost exactly how long I’ve been here).
My first thought was to turn on the computer and print out everything I needed for my nine o’clock and eleven o’clock classes. I feared that the power would go out and, sure enough, after I finished printing everything out and just as I was composing an email to a student, the lights went out.
I went out into the living room and lit a candle—one of my brother’s handmade pillar candles that we’ve burned down almost all the way and save for times like this. There wasn’t much I could do, so I sat on the couch and watched the winds blow. Every once and a while I would see something fly through the air.
A little while later I ate breakfast (cold cereal), and when I was finished I looked out the window again and saw that the scaffolding surrounding the building next door (it’s being remodeled) had torn loose from one side and was threatening to collapse. Fortunately it did not collapse, and even though the winds continued to blow it did not seem to get any worse.
Also fortunately, the lights came back on around a quarter after eight, and the water followed shortly thereafter, so I was at least able to wash up and shave before heading out to class. It was still pretty windy, but there wasn’t too much rain. When I came back from class this afternoon I took this picture of the scaffolding from our window.
Not too long after I took this photo, workers attached cords to the scaffolding and spent a couple of hours ratcheting it upright again. I thought that the poles might have been bent beyond repair, but by around five o’clock they had the scaffolding attached to the building once more, and it looks fine. At least I hope it’s fine—I would like this construction to be completed as soon as possible.
So that’s my typhoon story. Not too exciting, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. A number of my students had a hard time getting to school after the subways shut down, other areas of Seoul suffered far more damage than we saw here (not to mention crop damage in the countryside), and I even read that three people died in typhoon-related accidents. I’ll take unexciting and uneventful, thank you.