Typhoon signal could be raised from T1 to T3 tonight, potentially dampening HK’s handover celebrations

The Hong Kong Observatory (HKO) said on Thursday it might issue the no. 3 tropical cyclone signal tonight with squally showers and thunderstorms expected for the next few days, potentially dampening the city’s celebrations of the 25th anniversary of its return to Chinese rule.

The forecaster said on its website this morning that the no. 1 standby signal, which was hoisted last night, will remain in force until 6pm today.

A no. 1 signal means that a tropical cyclone now centered within about 800 kilometers of Hong Kong may affect the city.

“According to the present forecast track, [tropical cyclone] Chaba will remain at a distance of over 500 kilometers from Hong Kong during the day today. Local winds will not strengthen significantly,” it said.

But the observatory said that as Chaba, which formed over the central part of the South China Sea, continues to edge closer to the coast of western Guangdong, local winds are expected to strengthen gradually tonight.

It added it will consider issuing the no. 3 strong wind signal then, which means it was expecting winds generally with a sustained speed of 41-62 km/h and gusts which may exceed 110 km/h, and the wind condition is expected to persist.

At around noon, the observatory issued an update, noting Chaba has intensified from a tropical depression into a tropical storm.

At noon, it was estimated to be about 710 kilometers south of Hong Kong and is forecast to move north-northwest at about 12 kilometers per hour in the general direction of the coast of western Guangdong.

A thunderstorm warning was also issued this morning and is currently in force.

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“The outer rainbands associated with Chaba are already affecting the territory. There will be swells. Members of the public are advised to stay away from the shoreline, and not to engage in water sports,” said the observatory.

The observatory said that as Chaba moves in the general direction of the coast of western Guangdong in the next couple of days, it will intensify gradually. 

It forecast mainly cloudy with squally showers and thunderstorms for the rest of today. 

There will be moderate to fresh easterly winds, strong offshore and on high ground later, it added.

The forecaster said squally showers and thunderstorms are expected for the next couple of days and there will be swells. 

Strong winds are also forecast for tomorrow (July 1).

The poor weather could put a damper on the city’s celebrations of the 25th anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover, which include a flag-raising ceremony that will take place outdoors in Golden Bauhinia Square tomorrow morning.

It was announced on Tuesday that Chinese President Xi Jinping will visit the city for the celebrations as well as the inauguration of incoming Chief Executive John Lee and his cabinet.

If a no. 8 gale or storm signal — the next level of warning — is hoisted, certain events could be cancelled.