|Saigon is the red mark in the middle of the storm|
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...