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Storm dumps record rain across UAE, floods Dubai’s airport

Messenger Desk

Published: 10:40, 18 April 2024

Storm dumps record rain across UAE, floods Dubai’s airport

Photo: Collected

The United Arab Emirates attempted to dry out Wednesday (17 April)  from the heaviest rain the desert nation has ever recorded — a deluge that flooded out Dubai International Airport and disrupted flights through the world's busiest airfield for international travel.

The state-run WAM news agency called the rain Tuesday “a historic weather event” that surpassed “anything documented since the start of data collection in 1949.” That's before crude oil was discovered in this energy-rich nation then part of a British protectorate known as the Trucial States.

Rain also fell in Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, but was acute across the UAE.

The flooding sparked speculation that cloud seeding — flying small planes through clouds dispersing chemicals aimed at getting rain to fall — may have contributed to the deluge. But experts said the storm systems that produced the rain were forecast well in advance and that cloud seeding alone would not have caused such flooding.

The UAE, which heavily relies on energy-hungry desalination plants to provide water, conducts cloud seeding in part to increase its dwindling, limited groundwater.

The rains began late Monday, soaking the sands and roadways of Dubai with some 20 millimeters (0.79 inches) of rain, according to meteorological data collected at Dubai International Airport. The storms intensified around 9 a.m. Tuesday and continued throughout the day, dumping more rain and hail onto the overwhelmed city.

By the end of Tuesday, more than 142 millimeters (5.59 inches) of rainfall had soaked Dubai over 24 hours. An average year sees 94.7 millimeters (3.73 inches) of rain at Dubai International Airport.

Standing water lapped on taxiways as aircraft landed. Arrivals were halted Tuesday night, and passengers struggled to reach terminals through water-covered roads.

Schools across the UAE, a federation of seven sheikhdoms, largely shut ahead of the storm and government employees were largely working remotely if able. Many workers stayed home as well, though some ventured out, with the unfortunate stalling out their vehicles in deeper-than-expected water covering spots on some roads. That included parts of the Sheikh Zayed Road, a 12-lane highway through downtown Dubai.

Authorities canceled school and the government instituted remote work again for Wednesday. Dubai later closed schools for the rest of the week.

Rain is unusual in the UAE, an arid, Arabian Peninsula nation, but occurs periodically during the cooler winter months. Many roads and other areas lack drainage given the lack of regular rainfall, causing flooding.

Meanwhile in neighboring Oman, a sultanate that rests on the eastern edge of the Arabian Peninsula, at least 19 people were killed in heavy rains in recent days, according to a statement Wednesday from the country's National Committee for Emergency Management. That includes some 10 schoolchildren swept away in a vehicle with an adult, which saw condolences come into the country from rulers across the region.

Messenger/Disha

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