HCMC Dining Guide

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Storm

Saigon is the red mark in the middle of the storm
A few days ago we learned that a Tropical Storm named Pakhar had formed in the South China Sea and was churning towards Vietnam. The Pacific's cyclone season doesn't begin until May, so this was an early surprise, as well as the Northern Hemisphere's first named storm this year. The early forecasts had it tracking towards the Phan Thiet/Mui Ne area, a few hours northeast of Saigon. Landfall would be over the weekend. (The above radar image is from a few hours after landfall.)

By Friday the projected path had shifted south, and the U.S. Embassy sent out a message warning American citizens to be cautious and avoid any coastal areas as the storm approached. On Saturday afternoon the projected path moved further south, and Pakhar was now forecast to make landfall at Vung Tau and then proceed directly over Saigon with winds of 50-60mph. Coastal areas were being evacuated and tens of thousands of fishing ships had been ordered back to land all along southern Vietnam's coast.

Last night we got a few sprinkles here in the city, the first sign of the storm's approach. This morning there was light drizzle falling, and by 11am a steady rain had developed, and dark clouds had Saigon completely socked in. Fortunately I didn't have to be anywhere, and I was content to read and watch TV all day.

Then, just before 3, the power went out. Shortly after that there wasn't enough natural light left for me to read inside, so I decided to throw on my poncho and hop on my motorbike. The weather, combined with the fact that it was a Sunday afternoon on a holiday weekend, meant traffic would be light. I went for a rambling drive through Districts 5 and 6 towards Binh Chanh, parts of the city I never get a chance to see. Sheets of rain danced along the pavement; garbage, leaves, and tree branches were strewn across the streets; and gusts of wind tried to send my bike spearing off the road.

Wind-driven rain tore into my face, and at times I struggled to keep my eyes open. I ended up well outside the city and took a right onto a random street, most of which was covered in 6 inches of fetid water. I was simply hoping it would lead back to a major road, driving with my feet up, thankful for my trusty Honda Wave. After mucking through the ruined, flooded road I came across what looked like a major artery and took another right - within 10 minutes I was back in a recognizable area, raindrops still pelting my eyes and wind trying to tear off my poncho.

The city was quiet; the heavy rain drowning out the usual sounds of horns and engines and construction. Back at home, the rain raked the plastic skylight on our roof while gusts howled down the narrow alley. The lights came back on around 6pm, although the storm was still battering the city.

My roommate Anthony came home from work an hour later and said that just outside his school a tree had snapped in half, the top part plummeting onto cars, motorbikes, and people. When we left the house to go get dinner there was an antenna from someone's roof laying on the ground outside of our gate, and debris littered the streets. I'm guessing there will be injuries from this storm. The electricity was cut again at 8:30, only to come back on two hours later. We seem to be in the clear now, and I'm going to go out tomorrow morning before work to get some pictures of the damage. Hopefully we won't be getting another one of these this year...


  1. We are so glad that you were able to return home safely after driving around in the middle of the storm in your motorbike. I have a few questions for you.

    1. You mentioned US Embassy sent out a message warning American citizen to be careful. Sorry I'm currently in the states so I don't understand how they know where you are located?

    2. If this is the first Tropical Storm of this year, would it name shall start with letter A..., then B .. Why P as Pakhar

    Thanks in advance for your answers.

    As always, my VIetnameses family that living in the US are enjoying reading your posts. You are an impressive writer. We learn so much about what happening in VN from following your blogs.

    BTW, have you found another teaching job yet? We wish you much success in your endeavor . Take care

  2. 1. I didn't actually get the message, but I think you can register with the Embassy's website once you move here and then you will automatically be e-mailed any emergency messages they send out.

    2. I was wondering the same thing about the name, not sure how that works over here.

    Thanks for the compliments, I'm glad to have your family as readers! I haven't found another teaching job, but that's because I'm not looking. I'm focusing on writing and editing now, if my finances need help I may look for another teaching gig at some point.

  3. I walked home in all of that last night not realizing at first that it was more than a little storm. The umbrella I had was less than helpful, as most of the rain seemed to move laterally, gusting with the wind. For a second I thought the umbrella would launch me into the air, Mary Poppins style. Our power was out for a few hours, too. All I could see from our balcony was Bitexco Tower.

    1. Oops! Sounds like an experience...I imagine an umbrella would have been pretty useless.

  4. I think I can answer the question about the names - not many of the tropical typhoons that get named actually make landfall in Vietnam. Most of them are around the Phillipines and Indonesia. So while it's out first one, it will be the P-th for the whole region. Also, the naming conventions for these storms are a little different from the hurricanes that hit the States. Each year the name list is agreed on, but it is not necessarily in alphabetical order, and the names are usually not people names, but more likely to be plant or animal names.

    1. Thanks! Didn't know any of that. Although I kinda like the people names, it makes headlines like "Steven to Maul U.S. Gulf Coast" sound a little more innocent.

  5. https://www.google.com.tw/#q=storm+blogspot&hl=zh-TW&prmdo=1&tbm=blg&prmd=imvns&ei=lcucT_jpNonNmAXwibW2Dg&start=50&sa=N&fp=1&biw=1197&bih=832&cad=b&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.r_qf.,cf.osb

  6. nice idea.. thanks for sharing.