UAE dust storms likely to last for days

Weather conditions prompt series of health and safety warnings while care is urged on roads across the emirates.

Motorists contend with strong winds and poor visibility while a sandstorm engulfs Dubai.  Antonie Robertson
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ABU DHABI // Dust, reduced visibility and the chance of thunderstorms are forecast for the next couple of days, according to the National Centre of Meteorology and Seismology.

The weather conditions for the next 24 hours have been categorised by the NCMS as “significant,” prompting several government agencies to issue weather-related warnings.

“Do not allow children with respiratory, asthma and allergic diseases to go out except in utmost urgent cases,” the National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Management Authority tweeted. “Reduce the frequency of going out from the house and being subject to outdoor environment as much as possible.”

If venturing outside, “Put a mask over your nose and mouth, and protect your eyes,” the authority warned. It also advised people to “stay away from glass windows and doors”.

The NCMS called on drivers to reduce speed and leave enough space between vehicles. Dubai Police echoed the notice.

“Due to reduced visibility because of the sand and dust we request motorist to drive carefully and safely,” the force tweeted.

Nine people were injured in road accidents in Dubai on Saturday.

Col Saif Al Mazroeui, director of the General Department of Traffic, said that one man was severely injured in a 15-car pile-up on Sheikh Zayed Road.

In another incident, eight people sustained minor injuries when their minibus flipped over on the Sheikh Zayed highway.

Abu Dhabi police tweeted a message to “beware of surprises” along with a photograph of a large tree branch knocked down by strong winds blocking a street.

Strong winds whipped up dust and sand, reducing visibility to less than 1,000 metres in many parts of the country.

At Al Maktoum International Airport in Dubai, visibility fell to 500 metres and to 1,400 metres in Al Ain, Sharjah, Abu Dhabi and Al Bateen.

Flights at the Abu Dhabi International Airport got away as normal. Planes are only diverted or flights cancelled when visibility is less than 100 metres, a spokeswoman said.

In Sharjah, the strong winds created high waves, forcing the seawater into Kalba Corniche. Police closed off the road in both directions so that the municipality could drain the flood. No major accidents were reported in the emirate and police increased their patrols on the main roads, urging motorists to exercise extreme caution.

The emergency department at Al Ain City Municipality received more 164 reports of damages and emergencies caused by the unstable weather conditions witnessed since Thursday.

Numbers of emergencies increased, including fallen trees on roadsides as well as fallen billboards and temporary construction fences.

Saeed Al Kaabi, manager of the emergency department at the municipality, said that it has contingencies to cope with the unstable weather and sandstorms which are affecting the whole city.

“The municipality gets ready for any emergency cases by holding ongoing meetings to respond quickly to any such cases,” he said.

Al Ain urged road users to take care until the bad weather abates and to report any emergencies or damages by calling 993.

NCMS meteorologist Sufian Farrah said conditions are not expected to improve until Tuesday.

“Because the northwesterly winds will replace the southerly wind, this actually is suspended with dust, it’s carrying dust, it will remain until at least tomorrow morning,” said Mr Farrah.

“Because the wind is accelerating and fresh, it will raise the dust. This northwesterly wind will be fresh and strong at times over the sea, specifically, and will extend to most or all parts of the country until tomorrow. I don’t see continuously strong.”

Mr Farrah said the isolated sandstorms are normal for this time of year. Sandstorms are classified when wind speeds exceed 30kph and visibility drops to 1,000 metres or less.

Sunday’s forecast is for partly cloudy and dusty skies. The visibility is expected to remain low at a minimum of 500 metres in Abu Dhabi as the wind is expected to blow northwest at about 25 to 35kph.

A chance of thunder showers are forecast on Monday as the temperature is expected to reach a high of 25C and a low of 18C. Visibility will improve to a minimum of 4,000 metres.

“The amount of cloud will increase, with a chance of rain over the northern and coastal areas in the early morning and again tomorrow,” said Mr Farrah.

Showers are expected on Tuesday.

“We are warning people to not enter the sea because it’s rough to very rough in the Arabian Gulf and rough in the Oman Sea,” said Mr Farrah. “Also precaution must be taken on the roads because of the bad visibility and accumulation of sand dunes in some parts.”