DUBAI // People were warned yesterday to prepare for a weekend of sandstorms, thunder and low visibility. The Metrological Office at Dubai International Airport said shamal winds of 25 knots (46kph) and rain will cause problems for motorists. Sandstorms built up throughout the country yesterday, causing visibility to fall to 500 metres in some areas, and the outlook is for conditions to worsen through the weekend.
Giorgio Alessio, the duty forecaster at Dubai Metrological Office, which takes measurements at Dubai Airport, said: "Visibility is down to 800m, but in open spaces, especially out into the desert, it could be just 500m, which is very low. "There is a risk of thunderstorms in the morning that could reach the coast and will continue throughout Saturday," he added. While conditions on land will affect driving conditions and limit recreational activities, the weather is set to have a far greater impact on those spending their weekend on the sea.
Unsettling swells and low visibility can force coastguard warnings in some areas. Even if sailing is possible, potential customers shy away. Martin Erasmus of Arabian Gulf Yacht Services, which specialises in yacht charters, said the weather had forced him to cancel yesterday's sailing. "There was a group booked from one of the cruise liners, but the coastguard would not allow me to go out today and I had to cancel tomorrow's sailings also," he said. "I have a boat in Abu Dhabi which I will be able to take out over the weekend, but if the shamal gets up, I won't bother."
Though some see the weather as bad for business, others welcome the conditions. Toby Haws, cruiser captain at the Dubai Offshore Sailing Club, said the Commodore Cup, a monthly yacht race, would go ahead today despite the choppy seas. "All our boats are built for weather conditions far worse than we ever experienced in Dubai, so the prospect of a good breeze for tomorrow's Commodore's Cup race is great."
He said with winds up to 25 knots, the organisers were looking forward to top speeds. "The division one boats need at least 14 knots of wind to really get going. All the skippers I have talked to are excited about the forecast and are ringing around for extra crew," Mr Haws said. * The National