Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 10 December 2019

Torrential rain and high winds hit Abu Dhabi

Weather warning issued as thunderstorms also reported across the country

Severe weather warnings were issued on Sunday after heavy rain and high winds lashed parts of the UAE.

Torrential downpours swept through Abu Dhabi and Dubai at lunchtime, severely reducing visibility on the roads. Dark clouds formed across the capital, enveloping many of the skyscrapers.

Thunderstorms also hit areas of Ras Al Khaimah, Fujairah and Sharjah on Saturday night and continued on Sunday morning.

Dubai Airports warned travellers to expect some disruption to flights and asked passengers to check its website for updates.

Warnings were also issued by the Civil Defence, police and the National Centre for Meteorology.

"Where is the sun?” tweeted one Dubai resident. “I didn’t sign up for this. We’re not used to this weather in Dubai.”

As the afternoon progressed, intermittent rolls of thunder continued to reverberate around the capital.

Winds battered the sides of buildings and in one instance, down on Abu Dhabi's corniche, near the British Embassy, a construction site crane was ripped from its moorings and sent crashing into the side of a neighbouring high-rise.

Speaking to The National, officials at NCM revealed the bureau had carried out cloud seeding flights over "coastal and internal areas" on Saturday and Sunday.

The exact number and location of the flights was not given but experts said the strategy was an effort to enhance the seasonal rain.

Meanwhile, Abu Dhabi Police reduced speed limits to 80kph across the emirate and called on motorists to drive safely.

It also sent out an emergency alert to members of the public via text saying: "Due to bad weather please take caution while driving on public roads."

Schools in the emirate were also affected. Officials at Cranleigh Abu Dhabi texted parents telling them that after school activities had been cancelled but that all children were safe.

"Please do not come and collect children," the school said. "When the weather eases, we will email with a pick-up plan."

Hazardous conditions along sections of the coast in Fujairah and Sharjah were expected to continue until about 8pm on Monday, November 11.

Residents were advised to brace for the possibility of more rain, rough seas and strong winds.

On Sunday, a video shared on social media showed Louvre Abu Dhabi lashed by winds and rain. Water poured through the dome-shaped roof, flooding open-air areas of the museum.

In Dubai, a video shared on Twitter showed water streaming through the roof of Dubai Mall on to shoppers below. A similar scenario was repeated in the car park where water gushed from the ceiling.

Mall developer Emaar said the heavy rain had caused leakages in "limited areas".

"We are working to contain all leakages and the mall remains operational and open to the public," a statement said.

"Mall staff are on the ground, ensuring the visitor experience remains unaffected."

Meanwhile, traffic in Dubai Media City came to a standstill as the heavens opened and thunder echoed across the skies.

Motorists navigated the treacherous conditions in bumper-to-bumper traffic while pedestrians sprinted for the cover of shops and office buildings.

On Saturday, the NCM shared videos on its Twitter page showing heavy showers and dangerous driving conditions in northern parts of the country.

It issued yellow and red warnings for people living near the coast to stay on high alert, saying severe rainstorms would continue into the evening.

Skies are expected to remain overcast in Dubai and Abu Dhabi on Monday, with intermittent rain expected, but the worst conditions will be over by the morning.

In the Northern Emirates, however, storms are expected to continue until Monday night.

“[On Monday] morning, the rain will be concentrated over the east part of the UAE and some parts of the north,” said Ahmed Habib, a meteorologist at the NCM.

He advised motorists to avoid driving where possible.

“Visibility will be poor on the highway between Abu Dhabi and Al Ain and Abu Dhabi and Dubai,” said Mr Habib. “Everyone should take extra precautions when driving.”

Mountainous areas and wadis can experience deadly flash floods during big storms and should be avoided. Every winter people drown in the flooding.

While bad weather is a rarity across much of the UAE, downpours can be torrential when they do occur.

“It’s a time of transition between summer and winter, so the pressure system changes quickly and creates unstable weather conditions,” said Mr Habib.

Last year, pop star Dua Lipa was forced to call off her show in Abu Dhabi due to high winds and rain and in March 2016 more than 30 centimetres of rain fell in the capital over a five-day period.

Updated: November 10, 2019 05:15 PM

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