x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Weather set to worsen as temperatures drop 10°C

Meteorologists say weather conditions will worsen as wind directions change and temperatures drop.

A worker clears sand from the Jebel Ali-Lahbab road after the weekend's sandstorms.
A worker clears sand from the Jebel Ali-Lahbab road after the weekend's sandstorms.

ABU DHABI // Following a weekend of sandstorms, forecasters have warned that conditions could worsen today as wind directions change, temperatures drop 10 degrees and waves reach 3.6 metres.

The National Centre of Meteorology & Seismology said strong winds and partially cloudy skies would remain and cool weather was forecast for the country. Temperatures were expected to reach a high of 20°C tomorrow.

Motorists have been warned to drive carefully, particularly on motorways and open areas where the wind may cause cars to sway. Campers have been advised not to set up tents at the bottom of sand dunes in case of rains as they could be subject to flash flooding.

On Friday evening, the wind caused a car to topple over on the Jebel Ali-Al Ain road, injuring the driver and his wife. Police closed the road at 5pm. Winds were high in that area because there were no trees lining the road, police said.

Hospitals, including Mafraq and Tawam, have recorded a spike in respiratory cases, particularly in infants. Doctors have advised people to stay indoors in air conditioning were the air is filtered.

Abu Dhabi police also reported an accident on the Abu Dhabi-Al Ain motorway, on Friday.

The National Centre of Meteorology & Seismology (NCMS) said there was a slight chance of rain as cool air gathers over the Northern Emirates.

Yesterday, visibility was recorded to be a little under 300 metres in Jebel Ali and 500 metres at Abu Dhabi International Airport.

"These are the official recordings we have, but we cannot ignore that in some parts of the country visibility is close to zero," said an official from the centre, adding that conditions would remain the same today.

"The effect will be more clear over the internal regions [today], in the cities, a little away from the coast," the official said.

Residents and workers took extra precautions around the country to shield themselves from the sand yesterday, with construction workers tying scarves and cloth around their heads.

"This is the worst weather to work in, even worse than summer," said Mohan Pharnis, as a group of labourers hunched behind a yellow forklift on Al Sufouh road in Dubai.

A road construction contractor gave the workers masks to protect their nose and mouth.

"This covers our face but the sand covers you like a blanket and enters your body," Mr Pharnis said. "It is difficult to breathe; our work slows down."

Motorists on Emirates Road said conditions yesterday were marginally better than on Friday when the storm hit the country.

Many expressed concern about conditions when more commuters hit the roads today.

"Visibility is slightly better but when it gets busy, I have to be careful of reckless drivers," said Campo Santi, a Spanish expatriate who works with a water treatment facility.

"The winds are not so strong today and if people have road discipline, everyone is safe."

Beachgoers were again prevented from going into the water.

In Dubai, the surfing community was warned to stay off the beach for the second day in a row, with red flags indicating that swimmers should avoid the sea.

"Power boarding can be quite dangerous because it will be easy to go out to sea but very difficult to come back in," said Scott Chambers, founder of Surf Dubai. "We have advised people not to go out."

But Mr Chambers said he believed conditions would be ideal for surfing over the next week.

"There is a silver lining to the sand cloud," he said, referring to the two-metre-plus waves.

"We expect the largest swirl. We expect winds to turn, so Sunday, Monday and Tuesday should be fantastic surfing weather. We post updates on our website so surfers have the right information."

Foot traffic in malls did not significantly increase, with residents preferring to stay home.

"I told my family to stay at home," said Abbas Essan, a Jordanian browsing at an electronics store at the Mall of the Emirates.

"Maybe we all go out later. This is Dubai, there will be sandstorms. We sometimes forget we are in the desert. This is our reminder."