Hurricane Ivan and Memories of Typhoons

The remnants of Hurricane Ivan (now just a tropical depression) are passing through the DC/VA/MD area, spawning tornadoes out in the suburbs and dumping rain on Washington.

News on TV is saying this is the most damaging hurricane to hit the US in five years. I’m trying to compare the destruction in the Southeast with some of the Signal Number Three typhoons we’ve had in the Philippines, and I can’t seem to remember any time that our roof got damaged, let alone blown off — but then, I lived the sheltered upper-class Filipino life. I do remember reading a typhoon safety pamphlet in grade school, advising people out in the probinsya to tie down the roofs of their nipa huts with stakes and rope, and to stock up on batteries for flashlights and transistor radios. Storm surge was rarely a concern, as houses were normally built elevated on stilts to begin with, and if the baha (flooding) got any higher, you just moved all your stuff upstairs till the water went down. (Which was what one of my coworkers in Manila actually did when the Pasig River submerged his entire first floor.) And if the water went still higher, eh bahala na. (Whatever.)

(Bahala na indeed.)

There was one instance of flooding while I lived in Westmont which indicated to me that I was probably in the worst typhoon I’d ever been in. I came down from my apartment that day to find the entire parking lot turned into a lake of muddy water from a canal behind the compound. I waded through the knee-deep deluge to say hi to a neighbor, but later that day it was up to my waist (by my estimates, anyway; the water was opaque brown, and I wasn’t wading anymore), and the flood took all day to subside. I would go down the stairs every hour or so and see the steps descend from the second floor and disappear into the murky depths.

Later that day, the flood receded, and I found that the wall around the swimming pool area had collapsed, allowing the water to flow back into the canal, but taking most of the swimming pool with it, leaving a huge opening in that side of the compound, facing out to the canal and the squatter colony beside it. The ruins of the swimming pool area stayed cordoned off from then on, and it was still like that when I left.


  1. Chris says:

    I was driving home down I-95S during all the warnings. Driving might not be the right term – idling while slowing rolling forward is more like it. I drove through the patch of I-95 that had been visited by the tornado less than an earlier. Trees down, debris all over the highway, it was pretty ugly.

  2. Phisch says:

    When I was a baby there was a huge storm, I can’t remember its name. But my parents tell me that the only part of the roof that was left was over one bathroom. Our house was on a more elevated part of town (San Juan) so baha was not a problem, but winds were.