Just like anywhere else, when there is nothing else to talk about, the weather becomes the most popular topic. Here, we chat about the sunshine, the sun, the UV rays, the heat, the sunny day, how hot it is and how the sun does shine. Fairly predictable and unexciting, all in all. Then, just like a badly kept secret, rumours start to circulate about an approaching weather front and a cataclysmic storm. Rain, thunder, lightning and perhaps even a twister to stir things up a bit. From somewhere up north, from the U.A.E., Qatar or even Kuwait, a storm was brewing and heading our way. The air was electric, literally, as more stories circulated about storms, twisters and impending doom. Weather warnings were put out on the local radio, texts were sent to the general public from the civil defence department with warnings to stay inside and then there was good old panic buying in the shops. It was even banded about that the weather had been a worthy news item on the BBC back home. We watched, we waited… and then it grew very, very dark…
Nefarious clouds appeared overhead and the air was thick enough to cut with a butter knife.
At first, a few drops of rain fell down with a light pitter-patter on our door step…drip, drip drop little April showers…then all HELL was let loose!
If you haven’t seen a tropical storm then it really is difficult to describe – if not believe. To imagine the amount of rain that can fall so quickly to cause such flooding is practically beyond comprehension. It hurts to stand in it and you feel that you could almost drown just standing upright as the water completely smothers your face with its massive load.
After a minute or so, there is some local flooding to be seen – and driven through of course. Yehaa! At this stage, the wheels cause great plumes of water to shoot upwards and outwards at unsuspecting passers-by. Immense fun although a somewhat unsociable pastime. There is a lull and things go eerily quiet. Then, just when you think it’s all over…the the heavens truly open up.
Running out to play in the rain quickly becomes a panicked flight for survival as water gushes down from the mountains, down the wadis, snaking its way through towns and villages as it travels to the sea. Vehicles no longer have contact with the earth and they start to bob and float, no longer anchored but at the mercy of the elements.
And then, just when you thought it couldn’t rain any harder, it really starts to rain. I mean it tips it down! The thunder is deafening and the lightning is constant – one flash after another, continuously for minute after minute, hour after sodden hour. One then begins to wonder whether it will ever stop. One then starts to formulate contingency plans. One then begins to pray a little – just in case, you understand?
It really is a spectacle to behold and has now become something of a regular occurrence in these parts. The great storm of June 2007 was to herald this new era of storms, flooding and high winds.
After all that, the anticipated storm never arrived apparently. Phew! That’s a relief. Well, it wasn’t like the great cyclone of ’07, so what was all the fuss about? Why, this storm was a damp squib by comparison, we are reliably informed. It is usually about this time that one begins to question one’s presence but then we quickly forgot whatever danger there might be and whooped it up with the rest of the boys. ‘Bring on the big stuff’, we shouted along with those hardened, storm veterans. As you can see in the photo, the water is running where we might normally drive – these are the wadis that we have often written and spoken of, visited and driven down on so many an occasion. It really is important to keep an eye on the weather when out and about, and then this gave us an idea…
There is a place called Snake Canyon, where many have died in flash floods according to the guide books and some reliable, local tales. We would head there to see what the fuss was all about. At the end of the day, it’s only a drop of water, isn’t it?
Yes, we did survive this bad weather and another following storm. We made it to Snake Canyon and back but not without some serious damage to our vehicle, our confidence and our ability to look after ourselves. We honestly believed we had conquered the worst of the off-road stuff that the mountains had to offer – but then we found ourselves in Wadi Bani Awf.
Blog coming up…
(Some photos here were provided by a good friend from another village where the weather was even more torrential than we had experienced – thanks to Mohammed Al Shibli).
A leisurely weekend at home this week…PERHAPS!