Wednesday, October 20, 2010

It'll huff and it'll puff but it won't blow your house down...

Who's afraid of a big, bad typhoon?  Well not me and I live in Typhoon Alley (what I like to call the fact that most Pacific tropical cyclones seem to hit Taiwan square on).  However, I live in Taipei and being from a modern Taiwanese city of concrete and steel does have its advantages in a big typhoon.

As the countryside areas of Taiwan seem to be like crumbly sandcastles compared to the cities, typhoons there strike with devastation, bringing landslides and flooding and blowing down weak structures made of wood or the cheap aluminum and plastic siding (that lots of buildings have hammered on).  Wood and cheap siding just don't cut it in a typhoon but concrete does.

Just look at the devastation after Katrina in the US.  Taiwanese look to this kind of hurricane in America with amazement.  Not amazement about the typhoon force but about amazement about the destruction wrought in cities in their aftermath!  Well, there are a few reasons why cyclones don't bring the damage they do in America to homes.

First, homes are built with different materials.  Taiwanese city dwellings are built with concrete which stands a much better chance in the high winds.  What many Taiwanese don't know is that American homes are built with wooden structures.  Wood doesn't fare as well in the wind.  All it takes is for one small opening to let a strong wind take a whole house down.  If you want proof, watch this:

The second reason is better flood water management in the cities.  Big cities in Taiwan have got lots of flood water prevention systems, not the least being the flood water walls that you can find along the edge of rivers.  Remember the poorly built and maintained levees of New Orleans?  'Nuff said.

So in the end, if there is a lesson to be learned from all this then it is that of the Three Little Pigs.  When the big, bad wolf comes knocking on your door during a typhoon, if your house is made of concrete and brick, you stand the best chance and, in fact, are quite safe.  Let's hope you aren't the pig caught in the house made of straw or sticks...
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