What you need to know
Labeled a Category 5 storm as recently as yesterday, Typhoon Maria weakened and turned north, relieving Taiwan of any major harm.
Taiwan emerged mostly unscathed after Typhoon Maria skirted the island as a significantly weakened Category 2 storm. Projected as a Category 5 'Super Typhoon' as recently as yesterday evening, the storm's eye passed north of the island, ensuring that Taiwan only encountered its periphery.
While New Taipei residents were granted a day off, Taipei City Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) made the call for offices and schools to operate as usual today. Heavy rains and powerful winds thrashed through the city last night, but caused little visible damage, and sunshine peeked through the post-Maria clouds in Taipei this morning.
Five injuries have been reported, per Taiwan's Central News Agency (CNA). As of 12:30 p.m., 13,754 households throughout Taiwan were still without power, mostly in New Taipei City.
The Taipei and New Taipei MRT is fully operational. All high-speed railway (HSR) services are operating as normal, and the Taiwan Railway Administration (TRA) announced a return to full service on its West and East Coast Lines at 9 a.m. this morning - with the exception of the No. 51 and 52 tourist lines, which will take a day off from their usual round-the-island routes.
Taiwan residents nervously speculated as Maria bounced between Categories 4 and 5 on its approach yesterday. Per CNA, 3,438 residents were evacuated from flood-prone regions, and over 2,000 soldiers were deployed in preparation.
In Taipei, Mayor Ko announced the closure of schools and offices at 4 p.m. yesterday, causing a frenzy as MRT stations swelled beyond capacity. By evening, the city was essentially on lockdown.
But Maria weakened and turned northwards as it reached the island. Shortly after midnight, it was downgraded from a Super Typhoon. Rainfall reached around 100 mm in some areas, significantly less than projections for downpours of up to 500 mm.
In Taipei's Datong District, near Taipei Main Station, tin roofs rattled and gusts of wind tore through alleys, but there was no evidence of fallen signs, flooded sidewalks, or any other discernible damage.
Taipei residents were mostly disappointed at failing to receive a 'typhoon day,' with social media users lambasting Mayor Ko's 10 p.m. call for work to resume as normal.
The decision deviated from a longstanding policy of Taipei, New Taipei, and Keelung announcing typhoon closures together – before Maria, Taipei had not announced separately since 2012.
However, Ko was seemingly vindicated as the storm had cleared the city by the time residents started their morning commute.
New Taipei City residents are not obliged to report for work in Taipei in a situation where New Taipei receives a day off, but Taipei does not.
Parts of Taiwan faced water shortages in 2018, and the island's wet weather season arrived later than usual this year. Reservoirs have operated far below capacity, and Water Resource Agency officials created artificial rain earlier this year to replenish Taiwan's water supply.
Typhoon Maria was the first major storm of Taiwan's 2018 typhoon season. Taiwan's typhoon seasons generally run between July and September.
Taiwan was battered by Category 5 Typhoon Meranti in September 2016, which was the second-strongest tropical cyclone in the region since 1970. Two people were killed in Taiwan, and over a million households were left without power. In 2017, Taiwan was struck by two storms, Typhoon Nesat and Tropical Storm Haitang, in quick succession, leaving over 111 residents injured.
TNL Editor: David Green