x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

60 minutes of 111kph sandstorm mayhem

A sandstorm tore through the Emirates yesterday, blowing down billboards and uprooting trees, as winds gusted at more than 111kph.

The sandstorm hits Dubai, bringing 111kph winds and making driving conditions difficult.
The sandstorm hits Dubai, bringing 111kph winds and making driving conditions difficult.

DUBAI // A sandstorm tore down billboards and uprooted trees early yesterday, with winds gusting at more than 111kph.

The storm swept south for more than an hour, reducing visibility to a few metres.

"The thunderstorm formed offshore Dubai, in the middle of the Southern Arabian Gulf and moved quickly to the East," a duty forecaster at the Dubai Meteorological Office said.

"It hit the northern emirates, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm al Qaiwain and Ras al Khaimah and caused rain in some of those areas."

Residents in Ras al Khaimah also reported heavy winds and rain. On highway E65 south towards Liwa the sandstorm reduced visibility to about 20 metres and covered the road with sand.

"The rain and thunderstorms reported were anticipated by a squall line with winds of up to 111kph," said the forecaster. "The storm lasted for about an hour and the mean wind speed was around 55kph.

"Visibility is perfect now that it has passed, but open air visibility would have been very poor at 111kph, almost zero.

"There is no risk of this weather today. We expect normal temperatures with some scattered clouds."

Dubai and Abu Dhabi police said there were no serious accidents or deaths, although residents reported minor incidents.

"A piece of plywood from a construction site hit the side of my car door," said Aziz Rahman from Pakistan. "Luckily the damage was not too bad."

A hotel in Al Barsha removed the umbrellas from its rooftop swimming pool after one of them flew off and landed on the ground floor. "It landed close to the hotel's entrance," said the concierge Ramesh G from India. "We will wait for the weather to get better before we put them back up again."

Taxi drivers said they saw at least two toppled signboards on Sheikh Zayed Road.

"I went to drop some guests at the airport and near the Crowne Plaza hotel on Sheikh Zayed Road there was a signboard that had fallen on top of a car," said Pardeh Shetty from India.

Another driver, Azmad Ali Shah, from Pakistan, said: "The wind was very strong. I saw police cars near the World Trade Centre and broken glass on the road."

A fast food delivery driver in Dubai, Niranjan Alva, said he hurt his leg when his motorbike fell on it and he had to call on someone to help him to lift it.

"My motorcycle fell sideways from the wind," said Mr Alva, from India. "I called my supervisor and he said I should drop off my delivery and go back to the centre until the weather improves."