01:03 - Source: CNN
Massive downpours hit Abu Dhabi

Story highlights

Storm brings more than a year's worth of rain

Winds gusts reach up to hurricane strength

Flights suspended at Abu Dhabi International Airport

CNN —  

An unusually soggy week in the United Arab Emirates turned nasty Wednesday as a massive storm whipped through the desert nation, causing damage throughout the capital, Abu Dhabi.

The downpour quickly overmatched the drainage systems, leaving motorists stranded in standing water on city streets.

A severe storm whips through the United Arab Emirates on Wednesday.
A severe storm whips through the United Arab Emirates on Wednesday.

The storm, which contained strong winds, frequent lightning and even some hail, caused all flights to be suspended Wednesday at Abu Dhabi International Airport. Wind gusts reached hurricane strength – 75 mph (120 kilometers per hour) – at nearby Al Bateen Executive Airport.

In addition to travel chaos, schools and businesses were closed, and many were to be closed again Thursday as weather conditions were expected to remain unsettled.

Rainfall is rare in the UAE, which has a dry, desert climate that sees less than 4 inches (100 millimeters) of rainfall per year on average. Since Saturday, when the round of wet weather began, up to 11.6 inches (295 millimeters) of rain have fallen, according to a spokesman for the UAE’s National Center of Meteorology & Seismology.

A woman covers her shoes with plastic bags from the rain Wednesday in Dubai.
Kamran Jebreili/AP
A woman covers her shoes with plastic bags from the rain Wednesday in Dubai.

This type of intense rainfall can cause significant flooding and damage, especially in an urban environment without adequate infrastructure for drainage and runoff.

Though rain is rare in the UAE, February and March are the rainiest months, which see about 75% of the annual total of around 3.5 inches (90 millimeters).

The current storm system was expected to linger over the UAE and Oman through Thursday, but a drying trend is in the forecast beginning Friday.