Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The storm of the century

Okay, so maybe it wasn’t the “storm of the century,” but after four months in Abu Dhabi with barely a cloud in the sky, much less a raindrop, a three-day downpour felt like an epic event. Apparently, this happens once every 1-2 years, though from the way people reacted it seemed like it was not part of recent memory. It started on the day we went into the desert for Christmas caroling, a few sprinkles that caused us all to chuckle at the irony. But it continued a second day (and our drive to Dubai for the film festival became more stressful than anticipated, as we passed at least three deadly accidents on the way), and then escalated throughout the third and final day to a tropical-force storm, so that my little Toyota had to wade much of the way home from work in water up over its wheels.

As might be expected in the desert, the city’s drainage system is not very effective. During the 360 dry days of the year, the water repositories become full of sand and trash, meaning that when they are at last needed they are already clogged, causing the streets to flood. This in turn causes people to panic and forget the few rules of the road that they actually follow on a normal day (like obeying signal lights), and the result was gridlock unlike anything I’ve seen. It took me over an hour to drive three city blocks because each intersection was a jigsaw puzzle of cars stopped and facing every which way, unable to get through (these intersections by the way, are massive, between 6-8 lanes going in 5 different directions at times).

I would have found this situation amusing had it not also been dangerous, with rain still coming down in sheets and the sun having set. At first I tried to pay attention to the signal lights (stop on red, only go on green if there’s room in the intersection, etc) but with cars angrily passing me on both sides I realized this strategy might not get me home before morning, if at all. With the old “if you can’t beat ‘em” adage in mind, I gritted my teeth, gripped the wheel and wove my way through each remaining light, regardless of its color, honking with the best of them. I’ve now lost the right to criticize other drivers for acting crazy, but I did make it safely to our parking lot where Sam was waiting to welcome me home. After many sighs of relief, I pried my fingers from the wheel and we went upstairs to our dry --well, except for the fresh leak in the kitchen ceiling-- apartment.


  1. Pretty intense experience, even intense reading about it. It's scary to think of driving conditions over there, but especially with what you described. Thank God for protecting you with His angels. Lord, keep those angels on high alert when Shannon is on the road!!

    You make reference to the film festival in Dubai, but I don't think you described it anywhere otherwise. Did you drive to Dubai in the rain to see it? And what films did you see?

    Hope you can actually get your ceiling leak fixed - but then it sounds like it might be a century before another rain, so maybe it doesn't matter.


  2. sounds a little like the DC area when it snows. Merry Christmas, and blessings in the new year!

  3. Glad you made it home, Shannon! Wow, I didn't know it was your anniversary! How cool is that?!? Happy Anniversary ... and Happy New Year!

  4. Sounds a little like Chicago traffic on any normal day, lol. Wish you had a passenger to take a picture as I'm sure it was a sight to see.