A massive dust storm hit Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, disrupting road traffic and bringing public life almost to a standstill. Many schools suspended classes and informed parents to take their kids home well before the school day had ended, while some school authorities have declared there will be no classes on Wednesday. Civil defense units were called into action to respond to several automobile accidents and downed trees. A large number of people stayed indoors as they were afraid of a possible repeat of the flood disaster that turned into a catastrophe in several parts of the city in 2009 and 2011.
Unsettled weather is typical in Saudi Arabia in February, with strong winter winds a frequent occurrence. These winter Shamals (strong northwesterly winds which blow over the Persian Gulf states), is association with a strengthening high pressure system over the peninsula in combination with a deep trough of low pressure east of the Persian Gulf. This pressure gradient results in strong northerly winds blowing over the Gulf, sometimes for extended periods.
According to the Emirates Weather Portal, a low pressure system has persisted over northern Arabia since the beginning of February, driving windy and dusty conditions in the region. It was also reported that a particularly strong storm formed on February 2, blowing dust and sand across southern Saudi Arabia. The Empty Quarter, or Rub’ al Khali covers large parts of the Arabian Peninsula, including parts of Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates. It is the world’s largest sand sea, holding half as much sand as the Sahara. This rich sand sea provides plentiful material for regional dust storms.
Featured image: (Makkah Gate near Shumaisi is hardly visible as motorists ride through the dust storm. (Credit: Mujib Hussain)
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