Preparing for the wrath of typhoons

By Isabel Berenguer Asuncion
Inquirer
Last updated 12:28pm (Mla time) 06/22/2007

MIXED-UP IS THE BEST WAY TO describe the weather pattern we’ve been experiencing. Bursts of sunlight are followed by heavy rainfall, then more sunlight again. The confusion seems to mirror our resignation to, anticipation of, and even excitement over the inevitable high winds and heavy rain that arrive with the typhoon season.

 

I had mistakenly believed that all Asian countries experienced typhoons. Not so. Across Asia, climate varies according to the exact location of the region in relation to the equator. In Kuala Lumpur, for example, it rains practically every day. My travels to this little-visited Asian city had me anticipating rainfall in the afternoons that would clear after a 15-minute downpour. Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and parts of China too, get their rainfall without much of the damaging monsoon or typhoon winds.

 

Part of our lives

 

Because the Philippines is located in the Pacific belt, typhoons are part of the seasons of our lives. We share the same fate with Hong Kong, Japan and Vietnam.

 

In my childhood, news of an oncoming typhoon was good news! It meant hours of munching Cheez Curls in bed and no school for a day or two. But now that I have a household to manage and a business to run, news of high winds brings dread and worry about floods, leaking roofs and power outages. We hope that our gutters aren’t filled with leaves, storm drains are cleaned of debris and window seals are in place.

 

And while we sit at home waiting for a storm to pass, we think about our office and wonder if the wind has broken a window pane open, or if a building drain has overflowed. Once, water started pouring from our office ceilings! Amusingly—and to our relief—it wasn’t caused by a bad roof drain system, but by an aquarium on the floor right above us that had burst.

 

Protection

 

Because typhoons are essentially part of the Filipino landscape, we’ve learned to protect ourselves from them. Architects and designers use wind factors as prime considerations for the selection of roofing materials and windows. New products face their baptism of fire when subjected to high winds.

 

Fortunately, many local manufacturers and distributors are typhoon-conscious. Aluminum windows and doors, for example, are fabricated with frames that have “weep holes,” little canals to allow water that has seeped in, to flow out again, rather than to flow into the interior. Windows are also fitted out with rubber or silicon weather seals that close-off small gaps.

 

Nonstandard approaches

 

There are also many nonstandard approaches to accommodate these temperamental weather disturbances. Gutters can be made deeper and wider to adequately catch rain draining from the roof; vertical drains can be enlarged to hasten the down flow of rainwater; window sill details (basyada as we call them) are profiled to keep wind pressure from forcing water in.

 

In modern homes, ledges above openings can replace the traditional continuous overhangs as protection from rain. Large windows can have fixed panels below or above operable panels to minimize the inflow of rain and water while maximizing views and natural light.

Being part of our annual climate cycle, typhoons do not come by surprise and have become a part of our design consciousness. So while we wait for the first typhoon of this season to hit, we would like to think that our shelters are more than prepared for its wrath

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