With Hong Kong sitting smack bang in the subtropics, it isn’t unusual for temperamental Mother Nature to lose the plot every now and then (check out our guide to Hong Kong weather if require more info). Stiflingly hot summers, relatively chilly winters and powerful cyclones – we sure get our fair share of weather crazies. We’ve dug through the records to uncover the 10 biggest weather extremes the city has seen. And if it’s just a plain old rainy day and you’re looking for things to do, try here.
Hong Kong’s most extreme weather
On January 18, 1893, the city froze to a frigid zero degrees Celsius, the coldest temperature ever recorded here. Frost formed and rain became pelts of hail creating an arctic tundra in our SAR.
The previous 1968 record was surpassed this summer. On July 9 the mercury hit 37.9 degrees Celsius in some areas of Hong Kong. That’s hotter than the normal human body temperature. The sun-sizzled streets were dotted with melting pedestrians while ice cream vendors were raided of their stocks.
Another one for this year. When tornadoes come into contact with a body of water, a waterspout is formed. This dramatic display sees water tossed and turned in a liquid tornado. It’s a rare occurrence in our seas but on August 8, this phenomenon was spotted in Sai Kung as torrential rains poured. Eyewitnesses said the spouts danced in the waves for at least 15 minutes.
Our SAR undoubtedly boasts a spectacular skyline, so, on March 16, last year, when it pretty much vanished after being engulfed in heavy fog, social media blew up. A humid maritime airstream interfered with the South China coastal region, creating a fog that dropped visibility down to 500m.
As well as its skyline, Hong Kong is also famous for its suffocating humidity. And nothing beats the sweat that was caused in March 1992. This was a month of downright oppressive humidity, with the Hong Kong Observatory crowning it the most humid month in our history. Ninety percent. Woah.
Instances of uncontrollable downpours, severe thunderstorms and even frost aren’t unheard of in Hong Kong. However, on March 30, 2014, the city was rocked (literally) as hailstones the size of golfballs our SAR. Some apparently smashed through the roof of Kowloon Tong’s Festival Walk, flooding the mall.
Vicente takes the title of worst typhoon we’ve had in recent years. For the first time in 13 years, the observatory hoisted the T10 signal on July 24, 2012, as Vicente came to play. Winds blew over 140 km/h and were accompanied by torrential monsoons. More than 400 flights were delayed, a record 8,800 trees were destroyed, hundreds were injured and thousands stranded.
But Vicente was nothing compared to the Great Typhoon. This was the most formidable in Hong Kong history, killing 11,000 people. On September 2, 1937, this behemoth was said to have been so powerful, it broke scales that were capable of handling wind speeds of up to 240 km/h, rendering its true speed immeasurable. It also managed to harness a 9.1m tidal wave that wiped out the villages of Sha Tin and Tai Po.
September 2010 wasn’t only drowned in the Lionrock and Fanapi tropical cyclones but Hong Kong was also lit up on September 9 as a record 14,599 lightning strikes crackled in the skies. Heavy rains, unstable weather and a week-long thunderstorm made it a month to forget. Particularly if you’re a lightning rod.
Mother Nature’s most recent hissy fit occurred just last month. In one single week, Hong Kong endured typhoon Sarika and then T8 Haima. In between both, we were also treated to some black rain, causing flash flooding. We get all the extreme weathers here. Snow at Christmas, anyone?