Typhoon York (9915)
12 - 17 September 1999

York developed as a tropical depression about 420 km northeast of Manila on 12 September. Tracking westwards, York swept across the northern part of Luzon where eighteen people were killed in landslides.

Entering the South China Sea, York intensified into a tropical storm on 13 September. Its movement then became erratic. Heading north at first, York strengthened into a severe tropical storm on 14 September. It then turned northwestwards before becoming almost stationary and attaining typhoon strength the following night. York picked up speed to about 20 km/h and began to head towards Hong Kong on the early morning of 16 September. After battering Hong Kong, York entered the Zhujiang Kou (Pearl River Estuary). It made landfall near Zhuhai and weakened into a severe tropical storm that evening. Moving further inland, York rapidly became an area of low pressure the next day.

York caused widespread flooding in Zhuhai. Fifteen people were killed and 700 were injured in Guangdong. Direct economic losses were put at 200 million RMB. In Macau, one person was injured and more than 120 other incidents were reported. Both bridges linking the mainland with Taipa Island and Coloane were forced to close. The Macau-Hong Kong helicopter service was suspended.

In Hong Kong the Standby Signal No. 1 was hoisted at 10.45 a.m. on 13 September when York was about 650 km to the southeast. It was hot with a few showers. Local winds were mainly moderate northerly on 14 September. But as York intensified into a severe tropical storm and headed towards the coast of Guangdong, local winds started to strengthen from the north. The Strong Wind Signal No. 3 was hoisted at 10.15 a.m. on 15 September.

Under the influence of York's rainbands, the weather began to deteriorate with a few squally showers in Hong Kong that day. York became almost stationary and soon intensified into a typhoon that night. An eye was discernible on radar and satellite imagery. As York approached Hong Kong, local winds reached gale force offshore and the No. 8 NORTHWEST Gale or Storm Signal was hoisted at 3.15 a.m. on 16 September. Winds strengthened rapidly in the next few hours. The Increasing Gale or Storm Signal No. 9 was hoisted at 5.20 a.m. and the Hurricane Signal No. 10 at 6.45 a.m. This was the first time since 1983 that the No. 10 signal was hoisted. The signal was in force for 11 hours, the longest on record. York was also the second tropical cyclone necessitating the hoisting of No. 9 or higher signals in the year. The last time that No. 9 or higher signals had to be hoisted on two separate occasions between January and September was in 1964.

Winds of hurricane force, firstly northeasterly and then southwesterly, buffeted Hong Kong on 16 September. Local winds experienced a temporary lull during the eye's passage. The eye of York was closest to the Hong Kong Observatory Headquarters at around 10 a.m. when it was about 20 km to the south-southwest.

Moving west-northwestwards at a speed of about 10 km/h, York skirted Lamma Island and Cheung Chau before crossing the southwestern part of Lantau. The lowest instantaneous mean sea-level pressures recorded at some selected stations during the passage of York were as follows :-

Station Lowest instantaneous mean sea-level pressure Time Date/Month
Hong Kong Observatory Headquarters 976.1 hPa 8.09 a.m. 16/9
King's Park 976.6 hPa 8.11 a.m. 16/9
Waglan Island 970.7 hPa 7.57 a.m. 16/9
Cheung Chau 973.8 hPa 8.36 a.m. 16/9

During the passage of York, a maximum hourly wind of 151 km/h and a maximum gust of 234 km/h were recorded at Waglan. The gust is the highest recorded at Waglan. At Cheung Chau, a maximum hourly wind of 112 km/h and a maximum gust of 182 km/h were recorded. As York entered the Zhujiang Kou, local winds over most parts of Hong Kong turned southwesterly.

After crossing the Zhujiang Kou, York made landfall near Zhuhai and weakened into a severe tropical storm. With hurricane force winds no longer being experienced in Hong Kong, the No. 10 signal was replaced by the No. 8 SOUTHWEST Gale or Storm Signal at 5.45 p.m. As the southwesterly gales affecting Hong Kong weakened, the Strong Wind Signal No. 3 was hoisted at 10.10 p.m. to replace signal No. 8. Local winds subsided further as York moved away from Hong Kong. All tropical cyclone warning signals were lowered at 0.45 a.m. on 17 September.

During the passage of York, one windsurfer was found dead 64 hours after being swept away in high seas off Cheung Chau. Another man died after slipping in Tseung Kwan O on 16 September. More than 500 people were injured, 11 of them seriously. A total of 800 signboards collapsed and over 4 000 trees were uprooted. About 90 roads were rendered impassable. Direct economic losses amounted to several billion H.K. dollars according to press report.

York shattered the curtain walls of several buildings in Wan Chai. Among them, Revenue Tower, Immigration Tower and Wan Chai Tower had together more than 400 glass panes smashed. A crane was blown down and struck a nearby flat before crashing onto Jaffe Road in Wan Chai. This resulted in a suspected gas leak and 25 people had to be evacuated. In Tsuen Wan, an industrial chimney collapsed onto Tsuen Wan Road. A mobile office in a transport container was blown into the water by high winds, floating near Queen's Pier.

Heavy rain associated with York triggered off 64 cases of flooding, mostly in the New Territories. More than 300 people had to flee their homes, including 91 from Sham Tseng San Tsuen where there was a threat of landslide and flooding. About 400 fish farms were affected and 189 fish farmers reported serious damage. More than 340 hectares of farmland, mainly in Kam Tin, Ta Kwu Ling, Sheung Shui and Tai Po, were devastated where 800 farmers reported heavy loss.

Severe weather disabled local as well as international traffic. Bus, ferry, tram, Light Rail Transit and Kowloon-Canton Railway services were all suspended. More than 470 flights were delayed or cancelled in adverse weather and about 80 000 passengers were affected.

York caused numerous power cuts, mostly in the New Territories and Kowloon. The fire services received about 460 calls for assistance, mainly to rescue people trapped in lifts where power failed. Water supply was interrupted in Cheung Chau and Sai Kung.

Typhoon York also wreaked havoc at sea. A cargo vessel sank west of Lantau Island, but its five crew were airlifted by a Government Flying Service helicopter. Two other vessels went aground. A liquefied petroleum gas tanker drifted close to Chek Lap Kok, forcing the closure of the airport's northern runway on 16 September. Several boats and yachts were blown ashore or damaged in Sai Kung.

Tens of thousands of container trucks paralyzed all roads leading to and from Kwai Chung container port on 17 September. This was the worse traffic jam on record. About 6 000 New Territories residents remained without power. Some 20 schools were closed on 17 September, affecting 20 000 students.