x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

May bows out at 50C to usher in summer

As temperatures soar across the country, the brave venture to the beach, though most seek relief indoor.

A boy cools off from the summer heat by taking to the water on his jet-ski in Abu Dhabi.
A boy cools off from the summer heat by taking to the water on his jet-ski in Abu Dhabi.

Temperatures topped 50° Celsius for the first time this year as May ended yesterday with a sting in the tail. The mercury rose past 50C in both Umm al Zumool and Fujairah, with a high of 50.2C the hottest temperature recorded in 2009.

Other regions of the country recorded temperatures above 47C, forcing many people to remain indoors. Some businesses sought to combat the heat by allowing workers to go home early. "When the weather gets to be this hot, the companies we contract with to clean the city schedule their workers accordingly," said Ghadeer el Kheshen of the Abu Dhabi Centre of Waste Management. "Workers begin their shifts early so that they can leave early. This was the case on Sunday."

Last week, the Ministry of Labour announced regulations granting those working in the open a mandatory 2½-hour break, from 12:30pm to 3pm, during the period from July 1 until the end of August. But because the regulations do not come into effect for another month, many labourers were seen working in 47C temperatures in Al Ain yesterday. "It is too hot to be working outside, but we have to," said one. "If we refuse we will be fired. This law should be in effect now."

A forecaster at the Dubai Meteorological Office attributed the soaring heat in Fujairah to a "föhn winds effect", in which dry air develops on the leeward slope of a mountain. "Because Fujairah is on the east coast behind the Hajar mountains, we get drier air coming down and getting warmer," he said. "The Shamal goes over the mountains and when the air comes down it gains temperature and heats up, and since it's dry, it heats more quickly."

At the Fujairah Hilton, the management gave cold towels to guests and staff who ventured out in the heat. "We want our guests and staff to remain cool," said Florian Gruhl, the food and beverage manager. Most guests had stayed indoors, he added. Russ Schild, 38, a Swiss businessman in Fujairah, braved the heat down at the beach. "I can't believe how hot it got this afternoon," he said. "I am sitting at the beach drinking to keep cool and am still pouring sweat."

The duty weather forecaster at Fujairah Airport said the current spell was the hottest he had experienced. "I have never personally been in 50-degree weather before," he said. "The temperature reached 50 degrees at around one o'clock, but that only lasted for 2½ hours. As the wind direction changed it brought cool air from the ocean, bringing the temperature down to 30 degrees. Fujairah often sees large temperature variations in a matter of a few hours."

Tow-truck services throughout the UAE have reported an increase in calls for assistance from motorists in the unexpected heat. "Over the past week we have received a number of calls from motorists whose cars have overheated," said Mohammed Ghulam, 42, a Pakistani tow truck driver from Al Ain. "Motorists should make sure their car's radiator is filled with coolant. If the car overheats, turn it off immediately and let it cool down. Once it cools, be careful when opening the radiator cap as it is hot and under pressure, then add more water."

ealghalib@thenational.ae