September 2015 – SAUDI ARABIA – A massive sandstorm that enveloped much of the Middle East on Tuesday sent Jeddah into total darkness at 6 p.m. The storm lasted for 40 minutes, with sand-laden winds so ferocious that one could hear the incessant rattling of windows in many neighborhoods. Abdul Hameed Abal-Ari, a senior official at King Abdul Aziz International Airport in Jeddah, told local media that flights were suspended briefly. “Incoming flights were diverted to nearby airports, while some departures were suspended.” Seven flights were diverted to Madinah, Yanbu and Taif. “By 7 p.m., things were back to normal,” he said.
“It all happened in a matter of minutes,” said Sadiya Haneef, a resident of Al-Sulemaniya district in Jeddah. “I could see from my balcony a mushroom-like apparition on the horizon. I thought it was smoke billowing from a faraway district,” she said. Soon it was clear to her that it was a sandstorm. “I had to literally struggle to close the door to my balcony. The gusty winds had sent everything into darkness,” she said. The experience in another neighborhood was equally bad. “My mother noticed dark clouds when she was seeing off my sister for evening classes,” said 13-year-old Mohammed Tareq. “Within minutes, everything was hazy in Al-Aziziya district and there was literally no visibility. It was one of the most bizarre things I’ve ever experienced. It seemed apocalyptic.”
Civil Defense personnel received distress calls from residents who wanted to know what was happening. Ali Al-Masry, a private sector employee, was upset there was no advance warning. “I have a son who is asthmatic and such weather conditions impact on his health,” he said. “If I had known I would have taken adequate precautions. Now I have to take him for nebulization at a local hospital.” Sultan Abdul Waheed agreed with Al-Masry’s concern. “In this day and age of high-technology we get to know such things long in advance,” he said. “It is the duty of the relevant departments to keep the population informed.” Abdul Waheed said he only realized later that the whole region was affected. –Arab News