Muscat: Officially, 2016 saw zero rain fall in Muscat. Yesterday, the capital more than made up for it.
For the whole of last year, according to data from the directorate general of meteorology, zero millimetres of rain was recorded in Muscat governorate. Yesterday, 18.2 mm of rain hammered Muscat City while Dhank recorded 24.2 mm, Buraimi 17.2 mm and Yanqul 21.2 mm up to 7pm yesterday. Heavy rain closed the Muscat Festival, caused flooding, delayed at least one flight, and left drivers stuck in long jams after fender-bender accidents. Traffic signals on at least four junctions – including Airport Road – were knocked out of action by the deluge.
The only silver lining was that some children got a day off to play in the puddles as many schools called parents to take their children back home, before water levels made it impossible for parents to reach the schools.
Apart from Muscat, heavy rain was also recorded in the governorates of Musandam, Al Buraimi, Al Dhahirah, North and South Al Batinah, North and South Al Sharqiyah and Al Dakhliah.
There will be more rain coming today, according to weathermen.
In its outlook for Wednesday, the Met Department said skies were still cloudy over the northern governorates of the Sultanate with a chance of isolated rain in the governorates of Musandam, Muscat and South Al Sharqiyah and the coastal areas.
All the events at the Muscat Festival were a wash out, thanks to the bad weather. “Al Naseem Gardens and Amerat Park will be closed due to the rainfall and the events will resume tomorrow (Wednesday),” a spokesperson of the Muscat Festival said.
The notification came too late for some families, as many had driven to the Amerat venue and had to turnaround after seeing the gates locked.
“We had no clue that the Muscat Festival was closed today. It had rained this morning, so we thought that the weather will be beautiful and reached the park around 5 pm but unfortunately, it was closed. Now we are going back,” said Salima Al Habsi.
Another family arrived by cab, only to find the gates locked.
“We came by taxi from Quriyat. The taxi dropped us at the gate.
“We didn’t know the park was closed today and found it only after we enquired about it. It is sad and now we need to take another taxi back home.”
The afternoon sessions at the Indian School Muscat, Indian School Wadi Kabir and Indian School Darsait, as well as at the Indian School Mabela were cancelled yesterday because of the bad weather, Wilson V George, chairman, Board of Directors for the Indian Schools in Oman, said.
The Philippines School and some other schools in the Muscat area also asked parents to pick up their children early. “I had to rush from my office to pick up my son as my driver called me and said he cannot make it,” said an Indian housewife, S Kumari.
Traffic signals on the 18th November St, Al Khuwair and at the Oman Club were knocked out of action by the heavy rain. The Royal Oman Police confirmed that at least four sets of signals were out of order while on the Airport Road,all the lights were rendered non-functional.
An Oman Air flight from Goa to Muscat had to be diverted to Al Ain because of bad weather. The flight later landed at the Muscat International Airport. “We thank our guests for their understanding and patience,” the airline said.
Several car accidents were also reported throughout the day, giving emergency responders a busy day. No serious injuries were reported.
The Public Authority for Civil Aviation (PACA) has sent out thunderstorm safety tips to safeguard residents and citizens.
“Avoid standing under tall trees, lamp-posts and telecommunications towers. Don’t risk working or standing in high places, such as hills,” it said.
Lying on the ground increases the chances of getting struck by lightning, the safety brief added. “If you happen to be swimming, get back to land immediately. If you are away from safe areas, sit in a bending position.
“Cut off the electric connection from your home devices. Remember lightning can travel through telephone land-lines. Also, do not use your cell phone, unless necessary,” it said.
“Lightning may result in fire incidents. Make yourself and equipment ready for any situation,” it added.
Data from the Directorate General of Meteorology revealed that there was zero rainfall last year, making 2016 the driest year
In 2015, 25.4mm of rain fell.
Explaining why Muscat did not have any rain last year, Jason Nicholls, Senior Meteorologist and Manager of International Forecasting at Accuweather, said irregular changes in sea surface temperatures, the Indian Ocean Dipole, made conditions unfavourable for the Sultanate in general.
“The IOD went negative during the summer and fall of 2016, resulting in warming of waters off Indonesia. This shifted the main threat for cyclones away from the Arabian Sea to the Bay of Bengal. A negative IOD is also less favourable for rain in Oman,” said Nicholls. The meteorologist added that he doesn’t think 2017 will be quite as dry as 2016, but neither does it appear that the year will turn out to be very wet.
Nicholls said, “There is a lot of uncertainty about how things will be later this year since it is unclear whether a weak El Nino will develop and the state of the Indian Ocean Dipole will change. That being said, if the dry pattern persists, drought conditions will worsen or develop and farmers will struggle due to the lack of rainfall.”
Foreseeing a dry year based on predictions, the Omani government had taken measures to ensure that the farmers have water for the crops.
“There haven’t been many pleas for help or complaints about water shortage.
“We had water reserves, collected in 2015 for 2016, which have been distributed to those farmers who needed this water,” said an official from the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries when asked how farmers were coping with the dry season.
“Besides, the minister regularly visits farms to educate farmers about alternative ways to farm, such as hydro-pooling and using greenhouses, to reduce water consumption,” added the ministry’s spokesman.
Dr. Osman Abdulla, Director of the Water Research Centre at the Sultan Qaboos University, said it is not unusual for the Sultanate to face dry spells in general.
“To be specific, Oman’s record over the past few decades has shown a similar trend. Those few decades did witness some longer drought periods – and by that I mean drought periods when there was no significant rainfall, not completely dry periods. Such rainfall could vary from zero to a few tens of millimetres,” said Dr. Osman.
According to the World Meteorological Organization’s (WMO) data analysis, 2016 was the hottest year globally on record.
The average temperature last year was 0.07 degrees Celsius warmer than in 2015 with some Wilayats hitting the 50 degree mark.