x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Heavy rain increases flash flood risk

Heavy rain flooded roads and houses in Dubai yesterday, and more storms are predicted for the weekend.

A cyclist rides through a flooded street behind The Mall of the Emirates in Dubai.
A cyclist rides through a flooded street behind The Mall of the Emirates in Dubai.

Heavy rain flooded roads and houses in Dubai yesterday, and more storms are predicted for the weekend. Forecasters repeated warnings to people to stay away from wadis because of the danger of flash floods. Yesterday, 20.4mm of rain fell at Dubai International Airport, well above the average total for all of December. It also rained in Fujairah, Sharjah and Ras al Khaimah. Among those caught in the downpour was Melinda Enriquez, from Australia, who lives in The Springs, an Emaar development in Dubai.

Her patio flooded overnight and Ms Enriquez woke up to see a pool of water that stretched into her living room. "It seeped in through the patio door and went across the sitting room and destroyed the TV cabinet," she said.  Ms Enriquez moved to Dubai just two months ago. "I was told it never rains in Dubai and I didn't expect flooding in the desert." Several weeks ago, Emaar posted leaflets advising householders to make sure that drains were not blocked and door seals were intact, and to remove balcony and roof drain covers to increase water flow.

Kevin Rennison, a Briton who lives in The Springs, said he heeded the advice and as a result escaped flooding. "I unblocked the drains around the patio because that is where it flooded last year," he said. "I learnt my lesson." Emaar said it had earlier inspected storm-water drains to ensure they could cope in the event of heavy rainfall. Ahmed Naeem, a resident of Al Barsha in Dubai, said the area was also flooded.

"It gets very dirty around here when it rains but that only happens once a year. Now I have to clean it up but it will happen again. When the place is finished, especially the roads, it'll be better," he said. Motorists reported flooding in Dubai, including in the Al Quoz industrial estate area, where some roads were under more than a foot of water. Residents of Palm Jumeirah said maintenance work on their properties meant they did not have problems like they did during last winter's rains.

Clive Stevens, a duty forecaster at Dubai International Airport, said 10mm of rain was usually enough to cause localised flooding in the city, so it was not surprising that residents reported problems yesterday. On average, there will be a day in December on which more than 20mm of rain falls only once every five years. From 1967 to 2007, the average total rainfall for December was 14.9 mm. The high temperature recorded in Dubai yesterday was 23.8C and the low was 17.5C, both of which are below seasonal norms.

Storms were forecast to continue today and tomorrow. Forecasters said the temperature would fall to 17C tonight and reach only 23C or 24C later in the day. Mr Stevens repeated warnings made earlier in the week for outdoor enthusiasts to be extra careful this weekend, with the risk of flash floods in wadis. He said: "Do not go and camp in wadis. It's still risky. In fact, it's a bit of a risk to be in wadis at all over the weekend."

Major Saed al Yamahi, of the Ras al Khaimah Police Air Wing, which rescues stranded mountain hikers, said there had been no emergency call-outs yet this season. "At the moment the weather is getting better but people still have to plan a day ahead before setting off through the mountains," he said. dbardsley@thenational.ae