May 21, 2024
UAE

UAE Experiences Its Heaviest Rainfall In 75 Years

Desert Nation Limps Back To Normalcy

In a rare and dramatic turn of weather events, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) was besieged by an uncharacteristic rainstorm on April 16, 2024 – the magnitude of which the desert nation had not encountered since its founding in 1971.

The storm lashed out across the desert nation with a force unseen in recent memory, disrupting urban and rural life. The sudden onslaught of torrential rain, thunderstorms and high-velocity winds caught most residents off guard despite the authorities issuing inclement weather warnings well in advance.

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The ferocious rainstorm brought certain public transport modes to a standstill. Credit: Arnold Pinto
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Commercial activity was disrupted to an extent. Credit: Arnold Pinto

The UAE is more accustomed to its arid desert climate than torrential downpours. However, the storm defied expectations, unleashing a deluge that overwhelmed infrastructure and challenged emergency response efforts.

In addition to the inclement weather striking the UAE, leaving at least one dead in Ras Al Khaimah emirate, it also struck neighbouring Oman, where authorities reported that 19 residents had perished in inclement weather incidents.

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Stranded vehicles litter a public parking lot. Credit: Arnold Pinto
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The mega rainstorm dumped an astonishing 254.8mm of rain in a 24-hour period. Credit: Arnold Pinto

According to meteorologists, the UAE received its heaviest rainfall in the past 75 years, with a record-setting 254.8mm of rain drenching the country within 24 hours and making news headlines worldwide.

Regular 80mm

On average, the UAE receives only 80mm of rain annually—one of the lowest in the world.

With its towering skyscrapers and bustling streets, Dubai faced the storm’s wrath. The city’s usually vibrant roads were transformed into waterlogged avenues as rainwater poured down, flooding streets, submerging vehicles, and causing the city’s fabled luxury malls, including swanky Dubai Mall and Mall of the Emirates, to leak from the ceiling.

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Commercial establishments faced the brunt of the storm. Credit: Arnold Pinto
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For some car owners, there was no escaping the fury of the mega rainstorm. Credit: Arnold Pinto

In Dubai, vehicles, including buses and pickups, were nearly submerged in water, leading to long queues at fuel stations as drivers grappled with the storm’s aftermath.

Emergency workers utilised commercial tankers to pump water from flooded roads, navigating around abandoned vehicles, at times, in waist-deep water.

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Volunteers were out and about to assist those in need. Credit: Arnold Pinto
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Major city roads were inundated. Credit: Arnold Pinto

Social media was flooded with images of vehicles trapped in submerged streets, their occupants desperately seeking safety as the water level rose. In addition to the chaos on the roads, the storm wreaked havoc on public transportation systems.

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A wide expanse of water greeted UAE residents after the mega deluge. Credit: Arnold Pinto
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Arid city streets turned into giant pools. Credit: Arnold Pinto

Volunteers of various nationalities contributed to relief efforts, offering water, food, shelter, and assistance to those affected by the disaster.

Flights’ Chaos

On April 16 and 17, flights were delayed or cancelled at Dubai International Airport, disrupting travel plans for thousands of passengers. The Dubai Metro system also experienced significant disruptions, with services suspended on several lines due to flooding in stations and tunnels.

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Normal life was paralysed after the storm. Credit: Arnold Pinto
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Lifeguard crews were pressed into service to assist residents. Credit: Arnold Pinto

Beyond the urban centres, the storm’s impact reverberated throughout the UAE. In Sharjah and Abu Dhabi, residents grappled with flooded homes and streets as drainage systems struggled to cope with the deluge.

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Flydubai resumed its flights on April 18, 2024. Credit: Flydubai
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For some residents, it was impromptu marine transport on waterlogged streets. Credit: Arnold Pinto

The ordinarily tranquil beaches of the UAE were transformed into turbulent seas as towering waves pounded the coastline, prompting authorities to issue warnings to beachgoers and anglers.

Despite the chaos and destruction, the UAE’s emergency services sprang into action, mobilising resources to aid those affected by the storm.

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Authorities deployed a fleet of tankers to siphon off rainwater from affected areas. Credit: Arnold Pinto
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Waterlogged roads are being cleared around the clock. Credit: Arnold Pinto

As recovery efforts continue, authorities have advised government employees and students to stay home until waterlogged roads are cleared. Although some roadways remain flooded, efforts are underway to restock grocery shelves and restore delivery services in affected areas.

24×7 Rescue

Teams of first responders worked tirelessly to rescue stranded motorists, evacuate flooded areas, and assist those in need. Beginning on April 16, government agencies coordinated relief efforts, distributing supplies and providing shelter to displaced residents.

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A desert locust feels the effect of the epic rainstorm. Credit: Arnold Pinto

As of April 19, emergency crews continue working tirelessly to clear waterlogged roads while residents assess the extensive damage inflicted upon homes and businesses nationwide following the unprecedented rainstorm.

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The UAE is typically one of the driest places on the planet. Credit: Arnold Pinto

Operations at Dubai International Airport – one of the busiest in the world for passenger traffic – remain severely disrupted, with flights experiencing diversions, delays, and cancellations due to the flooded runways.

While some inbound flights have resumed at Terminal 1 for foreign carriers, passengers face delays and disruptions.

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City dwellers used any means of transport to get where they needed to go. Credit: Arnold Pinto

Check-in services at Terminal 3 for Emirates and Flydubai flights have also resumed, albeit with significant wait times due to overcrowding and limited access caused by nearby floodwaters.

In the storm’s aftermath, attention turned to how such an unprecedented event could have occurred.

Climate Change

While the UAE has experienced occasional rainfall, the intensity and duration of this storm were unparalleled. Climate scientists pointed to the influence of global climate change, suggesting that shifting weather patterns may be responsible for the increased frequency and severity of extreme weather events worldwide.

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The rainstorm was of epic proportions. Credit: Arnold Pinto

The rarity of rainfall in the UAE, coupled with the storm’s intensity, has raised questions about the role of climate change in extreme weather events. While cloud seeding, a process frequently conducted by the UAE, has been scrutinised, climate experts assert that global warming is the primary driver behind such occurrences.

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People shop for food supplies in ankle-deep floodwaters. Credit: Arnold Pinto

Researchers anticipate heightened temperatures, increased humidity, and a greater risk of flooding in the Gulf region, exacerbating challenges in countries like the UAE.  

Officials in the UAE have vowed to bolster the country’s resilience to future storms. Plans are being implemented to upgrade infrastructure, improve drainage systems, and enhance emergency preparedness measures.

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The UAE generally receives 80mm of rainfall annually. Credit: Fahad Salman

As the UAE grapples with the aftermath of this unprecedented event, attention turns towards bolstering resilience against future weather extremes and addressing the broader impacts of climate change.

Featured image: The ferocity of the rainstorm caught motorists unaware. Credit: Arnold Pinto

Last Updated on 1 month by Arnold Pinto

    Arnold Pinto

    Arnold Pinto

    Arnold Pinto is an award-winning journalist with wide-ranging Middle East and Asia experience in the tech, aerospace, defence, luxury watchmaking, business, automotive, and fashion verticals. He is passionate about conserving endangered native wildlife globally. Arnold enjoys 4x4 off-roading, camping and exploring global destinations off the beaten track.
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