x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Freak weather spoils weekend plans

Temperature in Dubai reaches 37°C, the highest for February since record-keeping began, and the sandstorms greatly reduce visibility.

A woman hides her face from the sandstorm while waiting for a taxi on Hamdan Street.
A woman hides her face from the sandstorm while waiting for a taxi on Hamdan Street.

Sandstorms and record high temperatures disrupted the activities of residents across the emirates over the weekend. The temperature in Dubai reached 37°C, the highest for the month of February since record-keeping began in 1974, and the sandstorms greatly reduced visibility. "I did not have to work today but it did ruin my plans of having a relaxing weekend by the pool at the Hiltonia," said Stuart Davies, a banker in Abu Dhabi. Winds were expected to pick up again last night, bringing with them the possibility of sandstorms today and possibly beyond. Ahmad Ayoub, a mechanical engineer with Abu Dhabi Company for Onshore Oil Operations, said: "Normally when it is like this, we stop all work activity outside. We wait a couple of hours in the morning because if it is either foggy or sandy you can't operate machinery. So we wait for the sun to come out to clear fog, but sandstorms are more tricky." He said it was dangerous to travel through the desert in a sandstorm because there were no sand tracks. When the weather is good, there were always tracks to follow. "But during a sandstorm, after a while the sand tracks change and people get lost and then they get stuck." Visibility was down to 800 metres in the capital, and two kilometres in Al Ain and Sharjah. In Jebel Ali, the worst-hit area, visibility was as low as 300 metres. "Ras al Khaimah is clear but they may get some dust eventually," said Clive Stevens, a forecaster at the Dubai Meteorological Office. "Visibility in Dubai started to deteriorate at between 8 and 9am this morning," he said. "The reported visibility is 700 metres." By early morning yesterday, south-easterly winds had picked up in Abu Dhabi, travelling through the desert and bringing clouds of dust. They were expected to have lessened in strength and changed direction by today. "Visibility will improve but not much over the week," said Dr S K Gupta, another forecaster. He said winds were gusting up to 30 knots (55kph) on Saturday in Abu Dhabi and 35 knots in Jebel Ali. "If you look at cities such as Sharjah, Dubai and Abu Dhabi, they are all coastal cities, but Jebel Ali is inland and in the middle of an open desert, so we always record different and more severe conditions there." Cooler winds, dusty conditions and low visibility will further dominate the weather this week, forecasters said, saying that daytime temperatures would probably fall by around 10 degrees. Low visibility, strong winds and rough seas are expected on Monday and Tuesday, with 50-foot waves forecast. Andy Davis, a Jumeirah Beach resident, was among those whose weekend plans were spoilt. "Usually on a clear day I can see the Atlantis," he said from his apartment balcony that overlooks the sea. Today it's a sandy horizon." Mr Davis was entertaining guests from Abu Dhabi. "Some friends came to go to the beach but now we are staying in and playing video games instead," he said. "The sand has destroyed my weekend."

rabubaker@thenational.ae sbhattacharya@thenational.ae