Sandstorm ‘Madar’ swarms parts of Saudi Arabia

An “advance alert” was issued on Sunday following a sandstorm that hit the western city of Jeddah and other areas of Saudi Arabia.

“Jeddah was on advance alert this morning but the condition is mild now,” Hussein Al-Qahtani, official spokesperson of the General Authority of Meteorology and Environmental Protection (PME), told Arab News.

He added that Jeddah’s case is the lowest on the scale of climate severity.

The sandstorm, named “Madar” by the Committee for Naming Saudi Climate Conditions, caused obscured visibility of below 1 km. This mainly affected drivers heading to work in the morning rush hour.

The areas affected by the storm were Qassim, the Eastern Province, Riyadh, Northern Borders, Madinah and parts of Makkah Province, which includes Jeddah.

The dusty weather in Jeddah and other areas in the Kingdom was caused by a sandstorm that hit the Libyan desert in the past few days, and then passed through Egypt.

“We are in a transitional phase when changes in weather are expected,” Al-Qahtani said.

The move from winter to spring is expected to bring rapid weather changes, strong winds and fluctuations in temperatures in the coming days, he added.

The PME’s website on Sunday indicated the highest “early warning system” alert in the city of Yanbu in the Madinah region. The red color-coded ranking warned “of severe meteorological phenomena” due to the Madar sandstorm.

Some schools in Jeddah sent students home due to fears the weather conditions would worsen. Such conditions can be particularly risky for those suffering from respiratory allergies and asthma.

Speaking to Arab News, Dr. Hanan Fan, consultant pulmonologist at a public hospital in Jeddah, said students with respiratory problems need to take precautions if they go to school on a dusty day.

Dr. Fan advised those with asthma to stay home in such weather, keeping their windows closed. They also need to use preventer inhalers when necessary. If any dyspnea of persistent coughing occurs, a visit to an emergency unit is advised.

“In case of leaving home, you have to use the preventer inhaler 10 minutes earlier to avoid your condition (worsening) and turn into an asthma attack,” Dr. Fan said. “And of course don’t forget to cover your nose and mouth to stay on the safe side,” she advised people with respiratory conditions.

Al-Qahtani said the weather is expected to stabilize in most regions of the Kingdom by Monday.

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