Typhoon Saola Approaches Southern China

Typhoon Saola was expected to make landfall in southern China late Friday or early Saturday, hours before another tropical cyclone’s expected landfall along the country’s east coast, forecasters said.

Saola was forecast to come ashore in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong, the state-controlled news media reported. The Communist Party secretary of the province, Huang Kunming, urged people there to be “combat ready” for the storm.

As Saola moved through the South China Sea on Friday evening, several major cities in southern China were under the highest level of alert under a four-tier typhoon warning system. All trains in and out of Guangdong were scheduled to stop running from 8 p.m. until Saturday evening. Public transportation was also scheduled to stop on Friday evening in Shenzhen, a coastal megacity in the province.

On Friday afternoon, Saola was about 86 miles east-southeast of nearby Hong Kong, a Chinese territory adjacent to Guangdong, the city’s meteorological agency said in a warning. The storm was expected to draw within about 31 miles of the territory late Friday and into Saturday, according to the agency, the Hong Kong Observatory.

As rain fell in Hong Kong on Friday afternoon, the city was under a wind signal indicating that winds of 39 miles per hour were expected.

Water levels there were already higher than normal, and serious flooding could occur in low-lying coastal areas as waters rise rapidly overnight, the observatory said. Hong Kong is well prepared for typhoons, but that does not always protect it from typhoon damage.

Saola isn’t the only storm threatening China this weekend. A second Pacific typhoon, Haikui, was forecast to make landfall in eastern China, south of the city of Wenzhou, on Sunday, the United States Embassy in Beijing said in a weather alert. It said southern and eastern China could see damaging winds, heavy rains, flooding, mudslides and travel disruptions through Monday.

Typhoon Saola was generating sustained winds of 138 miles per hour on Friday morning, according to the Joint Typhoon Warning Center, a meteorological service operated by the U.S. Navy. That would make it a Category 4 storm on the five-tier wind scale that is used to measure tropical cyclones in the Atlantic. It was expected to weaken before making landfall.

Typhoon Haikui, named after a sea anemone, had maximum sustained winds of about 80 m.p.h. early Friday, the center said, making it a weak Category 1 storm.

Hurricanes and typhoons are tropical cyclones with sustained winds of at least 74 m.p.h. The term “hurricane” refers to tropical cyclones in the Atlantic basin; “typhoon” refers to ones that develop in the northwestern Pacific and affect Asia.

Dozens of people died in northern and northeastern China during heavy flooding earlier this summer.

Typhoon Saola, named for an elusive species of wild ox that is native to parts of Southeast Asia, has been moving through the region for days. It prompted evacuations in the Philippines and school closings and travel disruptions in Taiwan, but it has not been linked to any deaths or injuries.

There is consensus among scientists that tropical cyclones are becoming more powerful because of climate change, and that the likelihood of major ones is increasing. Climate change is also affecting the amount of rain that storms can produce.

Keith Bradsher and Claire Fu contributed reporting.

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