x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

UAE weather: the clean-up after the storm

Forecasters say more bad weather could be on the way.

A man walks past a construction fence that was toppled by a storm that hit Silicon Oasis in Dubai.
A man walks past a construction fence that was toppled by a storm that hit Silicon Oasis in Dubai.

DUBAI // Strong winds during this week's thunderstorm ripped metal cladding from buildings, broke windows and brought fencing crashing down on to cars.

Silicon Oasis in Dubai bore the brunt of the bad weather as hotels, offices, apartments, shopping centres and building sites suffered varying degrees of damage - with weather experts warning of more unsettled conditions in the coming days.

Some of the most dramatic scenes were at IT Plaza, a mixture of offices and shops, where huge chunks of cladding were torn from the side of buildings on Monday afternoon.

"We are in the process of repairing the damage," said a member of the management team at the centre. "The cladding was falling on to the ground but thankfully no one was outside when it happened."

Winds of about 40kph hit the area from 4.30pm. Eyewitnesses reported seeing large metal panels flying across roads.

"I was on the fourth floor when it suddenly went dark with all the sand. Then it turned into some kind of scene from a movie with things flying around in the air," said Roudi Soubra, the general manager of the Premier Inn hotel, just off Emirates Road.

The weather broke a television aerial on the hotel's roof and a CCTV camera in the car park.

"We had people checking out at the time but we advised them to stay indoors," said Mr Soubra. "The reception area was packed with people waiting for the storm to end and I could see cars stopping on the road because of all the flying debris."

The winds lasted for about 45 minutes and were followed by about 10 minutes of heavy rain, he said.

Windows were broken at the nearby Suntech office tower. A satellite dish and car park covering were also damaged.

"We could hear the winds from our office, then all of a sudden there was a crashing sound and two of our windows were broken," said Angelo Mariano, who works on the third floor of the tower.

No one was injured and the damage is being repaired.

Fence panels could be seen torn down across the area, with workers at the LaVista building site stopping work when the storm hit.

"Fortunately the only things damaged were the fences," said the project manager at the site. "We made sure no one was working on the scaffolding and everyone followed our safety procedures on the ground floor and stayed away from anything that might get damaged."

But the weather problems were not limited to Silicon Oasis, with reports of damage to buildings in Academic City.

"I was outside at the time and the winds were very strong," said Prateek Garj, a student at Bits Pilani college. "A lot of sand was getting kicked up and it was quite painful as it was getting into my eyes. I know part of the roof came off and fell on a car, breaking the windscreen. Some of the windows in the college also broke."

A spokesman for Dubai Municipality said that part of Maktoum Road, near the clock tower in Deira, had to be closed for three hours on Monday evening while scaffolding was secured.

Although debris had been cleared away from the roads in Silicon Oasis by yesterday morning, experts from the National Centre of Meteorology and Seismology in Abu Dhabi warned motorists to stay alert.

"We are expecting the next two days or so to have potentially similar unsettled weather," said a spokesman.

"A weather system is developing just north of Hatta and it means potentially similar weather could be on its way."

The unsettled conditions were caused by a monsoon trough making its way over the Gulf of Oman.

"It could be like Monday, but we don't know for sure at the moment. We are still warning motorists about possible low visibility and heavy rain," said the spokesman.

The high temperatures coupled with the moisture coming from the east over the Gulf of Oman causes the air to be forced upwards to form clouds.

As it travels over the mountains in the UAE, this results in turbulence within the clouds, and as the wind flows down it picks up dust and sand and may create thunder.

"Although we don't have weather stations everywhere, our radar showed that there was heavy rain in and around Dubai on Monday with winds between 30kph and 47kph," said the spokesman.

"It's likely that some areas may have seen stronger winds than this."