TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — On a wet and windy evening in downtown Taipei just after the passing of Typhoon Koinu, a trio of international storm chasers are recounting their most recent “chase” which took them to the southern tip of Taiwan.
Based in Los Angeles, Josh Morgerman had the distinction of making the longest trip to track this particular typhoon, braving a long international flight as well as what Morgerman describes as “the darkness,” or the grim feeling he gets driving around in the middle of the night trying to hunt down the eye of the typhoon.
“There are times when I am in the armpit of a chase and I just think that I can’t do this anymore. And then, when the typhoon is over, I just can’t wait to get to the next one.”
Morgerman says Typhoon Koinu was a "very satisfying chase because, after the calm eye passed, the winds on the backside “came in fast, becoming a full typhoon in 10 minutes, which was very sexy.” Morgerman added that Typhoon Koinu was a Category 4 storm when it struck Taiwan, just below that of a super typhoon.
Social media already proclaimed Typhoon Koinu a significant storm, recording the third-highest wind gusts worldwide when it passed over Lanyu Island on Oct. 4 with speeds reaching 95.2 meters per second, or 342.72 kph (212.95 mph), since records began.
Morgerman and fellow U.K. storm chaser James Reynolds weren’t buying the record wind gust report, noting that speeds were enhanced by monitoring equipment placed at 1,000 feet elevation and were not representative of the actual storm.
"I have great respect for storms. You can’t disrespect a storm.” Morgerman says chasing storms in Taiwan is typically a "coin-flip,” as they can dip southward, hook north, or the typhoon’s eye might even shrink dramatically. He thinks Taiwan is unlikely to get another big typhoon this year, though he expects the Philippines could get typhoons well into November.
“My best chase in Taiwan was Typhoon Nepartak (2016). I was in a high-rise hotel, and it was swaying violently—but fortunately, both Taiwan and Japan have good building quality. I stashed my car in a parking structure beforehand—a good thing, because cars in the city got thrown like toys, and the downtown area was hammered by lethal flying debris.”
Morgerman says Taiwan Central Mountain Range really weakens typhoons. “Typhoons don’t like mountains because of the friction. You can see that many of Taiwan’s cities are on the west coast, and I think it’s because that side is more protected from typhoons, which usually come from the east."
Morgerman says moist, swampy weather is perfect for typhoons or hurricanes, which, by the way, never impact Los Angeles because of the dry, desert-like climate and cold offshore waters. To get closer to his passion for stormchasing, Morgerman decided to build a house in one of the most hurricane-prone places in the U.S.—Bay St. Louis, Mississippi.
As it turns out, this personal endeavor has gotten widespread TV and media coverage, and Morgerman has become a brand ambassador for a number of building products that are verifiably storm-resistant. “In 1969, the eye of Camille—the second-most-intense hurricane in American history—passed directly over this neighborhood. So, I had my roof designed to withstand 200 mph winds. And there are other special design elements.”
“In Los Angeles, when I tell people that I am a storm chaser, their faces just go blank because no one has ever experienced a hurricane. In Mississippi, they know all about it and have lots of cool stuff to share, so I can get a lot of cool content.”
Another benefit of building a house in this part of Mississippi is that New Orleans is just 50 minutes away in case he gets bored with tales of past hurricanes.