Taxis are everywhere in the Hong Kong urban areas
Taxis are everywhere in the Hong Kong urban areas

Survive a Hong Kong storm - what do the storm warning signals mean?

Updated April 20, 2019 by CJ

A surprise thunderstorm struck Hong Kong this afternoon and a red storm warning signal was raised.

What does this storm warning signal mean? What do the typhoon warning signals mean? Can I go outside?

Here is our explanation of the storm warning signals:


Storm signals progress as follows: T1 -> T3 -> T8 -> T9 -> T10


There are a few different styles of T8, this is one example. They're all clearly marked with an 8

T1 - Standby signal (no. 1)

There’s a typhoon near Hong Kong.

T3 - Strong wind signal (no. 3)

A typhoon’s close enough to Hong Kong to kick up a stronger wind.

T8 - Gale or storm signal (no. 8)

Very strong winds that may cause damage. A T8 affecting the city (or on approach) generally means you should go home from work. The MTR, buses, and trams may be affected and may not run at full frequency or along all parts of their routes.

What to do work-wise during a typhoon will depend on your employer. Most will help you get home during a storm like this or worse.

T9 - Increase gale or storm signal (no. 9)

Like a T8, but the winds are getting stronger.

T10 - Hurricane signal (no. 10)

The strongest category. Winds are very damaging. Transport probably isn’t a good idea.

When the wind gets strong (T8, T9, or T10), watch out for debris, trees, and branches that are blowing around in the wind.

People living in Hong Kong are known to throw typhoon parties to celebrate the day off. Personally I nurse the hangover from the night before: You usually get a warning of work being cancelled. Rumour is the Stock Exchange is involved in these decisions.


There are three categories of rainstorm:



It’s raining, bring an umbrella.


It’s raining a lot! Be careful. There might be thunderstorms, flash floods, and transport that doesn’t work as well.


Treat this like a T8 - you can go home, go to the pub, get a drink, and watch the storm pass by.

Where did these symbols come from?

The storm signals in Hong Kong are set by the Hong Kong observatory. An explanation about the symbols is here.

You can find the daily warnings here.

What to do when bad weather hits Hong Kong?

Make preparations for transport to take longer:

  • Taxis might not want to take you (check out our map of cross harbour taxi stands for a guide on where to line up).
  • The MTR might not run, particularly on the above-ground sections.
  • Bus routes might have reduced or no service at all.
  • The tram and light rail may also be affected.
  • Good luck at the airport. Thankfully this is Hong Kong and there are many standard operating proceudres to overcome bad weather speedily.

Enjoy the day!

It’s not often you get a break in Hong Kong. Make the most of it.