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Storm surge

I came across a description of a typhoon written in 1898, by  John Earle Stevens, an Englishman who lived in Manila.  Warnings came from the  observatory of  the Jesuits. It began on a Saturday morning (20 September) and by the early afternoon, it was signal No. 5    Ships and steamers in Manila Bay and the Pasig River put on extra cables and anchors  and an  official crier marched down the main streets, in the rain,   announcing the coming of the “invisible monster.”

When sudden gusts blew in from Manila Bay, his house began to “tremble like a blushing bride before the altar” and he had to shut the “sliding sea-shell windows …and bolstered up for precaution.” An hour after dinner, he heard  big sheets of tin “slapping around against the house…the trees in the front garden were sawing against the cornices, as if they wanted to get in….” He marveled that the capiz  “withstood the gusts that came pouncing in from the Bay. But, “slumber was impossible” because of “ some of the most terrible blowings I have ever felt….”

The morning after, half a dozen nipa houses had been blown to the side of his house, the main street was “a mass of wreckage as far down as the eye could see…” The Pasig had overflowed; it was flooded up to Nagtahan. The typhoon surged towards the north where it swept away the railway  and tore down the telegraph cable to Hong Kong.

Manila had scarcely recovered when another  storm menaced the city, so  up went signal No. 5. “The tin was again stripped like paper…and the ships in the Bay dragged their anchors nearly to the breakwater.”  Those storm surges were  nothing like Yolanda.   (Yesterdays in the Philippines, C.Scribner’s Sons, 1898)