Rain, thunderstorms and hail covered parts of the Northern Emirates Saturday afternoon with a warning that conditions could intensify overnight and affect even more parts of the country Sunday, according to the National Center for Meteorology.
“We are expecting Dubai and Abu Dhabi will have some rain, will get the chance to face some rainfall as the areas that received rain on Saturday,” said NCM meteorologist Ahmad Al Kamali. “Probably, there will be more cities having more rain.”
The wild weather that fell over many parts of the Northern Emirates and the Western Region Saturday afternoon was frequently accompanied by spectacular lightning, booming thunder and -- at least in Ras Al Khaimah -- hail, which prompted authorities to issue a number of cautionary warnings to residents.
Police in Ras Al Khaimah advised the public to avoid the mountains as the heavy rain produced waterfalls that cascaded down the valley, causing slippery driving conditions and threatening to flood wadis.
The NCM also elevated its weather warning system from yellow, or “be aware,” to orange, which calls on the public to “be prepared,” and "on the alert” for hazardous weather events that are forecast, especially in the areas of RAK, Fujairah, Al Ruwais and the western islands.
Heavy rain was reported by the NCM over Jais Mountain in RAK, Dibba in Fujairah, Umm Al Quwain and Al Dhafrah throughout the afternoon.
Janis Britton, who is visiting her family in RAK from Scotland, said she has never witnessed a storm as intense as the one that moved into the area around 2pm Saturday afternoon.
“The lightening is quite spectacular,” said Mrs Britton, who was having lunch at her daughter’s house when the storm began. “It slowly progressed into a full-on thunder and lightning storm. It was really wild. We get heavy rain in Scotland, but it’s never coupled with this sort of thunder and lightning, on such a scale. It is absolutely surreal.”
Mr Al Kamali said the rain was caused by a low-pressure system, but that the NCM had also dispatched three rain enhancement flights as of Saturday afternoon to blast cloud-seeding flares into the clouds.
“It’s a very good day for cloud seeding methods today,” said Mr Al Kamali, noting nearly 70 flares had been fired into the atmosphere by about 4pm Saturday.
More cloud-seeding missions were planned for later Saturday evening.
“In the night time we are expecting that the cloud will be even more intense than right now, so there might be also some night flights,” said Mr Al Kamali, adding that the cloud seeding could continue through Sunday afternoon, if the weather conditions called for it.
“The cloud seeding helps the cloud – the seedable cloud or the rainy cloud – to have more rainfall, so it basically will cause the rainfall to increase.”
He said it is difficult to estimate the percentage by which the rain increased with cloud seeding, but that it in the past years, “it has shown great results that it has enhanced the rainfall.”
Videos submitted by witnesses in the Northern Emirates posted to the NCM’s social media accounts showed waterfalls gushing over the mountains, relentless rain splashing onto windshields and roads covered in streaming water.
Later in the day, a number of videos showing hail covering sand dunes in RAK was also shared by NCM, which publishes photos and videos submitted by its followers on social media.
The afternoon rainfall and hail followed a number of warnings that the NCM began issuing Friday night and Saturday morning on its social media accounts cautioning the public to be on the lookout for convective cloud formation associated with rainfall, strong winds and rough waters in the Arabian Gulf and Oman Sea.
In some parts of the country, wind speeds were forecast to reach 35 to 45 km/h, peaking at 45 to 55 km/h, forcing the waves in the Arabian Gulf to swell to a height of four to six feet, and possibly up to nine feet in case of storm activity, according to the NCM.
The sea advisory, issued on the NCM’s Twitter account and through Wam, is effective until 12pm Sunday morning.
“NCM warns from going to the sea during this period,” it tweeted.
The rain, lightning and overall “unstable weather conditions” are forecast for much of the country – intensifying Sunday and tapering out by Monday afternoon, Mr Al Kamali.
“It is actually going to extend until Monday,” said Mr Al Kamali. “I would say Monday, by the end of the day, it will decrease slightly because there is some northwesterly winds, strong winds, coming from the upper areas and this will cause the low pressure to move rapidly from our area and to go even far over Iran. So most of the cloud will decay and move away from the area.”
Coastal temperatures will reach highs between 22°C and 27°C. The interior parts of the country will feel slightly warmer, with highs ranging from 24°C and 29°C. The mountains will be cool, with temperatures climbing to a high of 13°C to 18°C.