It rarely rains in Saudi Arabia. This is particularly true for Western Region of kingdom where rain is really sparse. However when it rains, specifically heavy rain even for an hour, the region switches to emergency mode. Yea, believe me.
I encountered similar situation back in 2010 when I was living in Jeddah. It was a normal day of December in Jeddah with shinning sun and almost clear sky, just a morning of a routine day, when I heard from my colleague that it is becoming cloudy outside. Within half an hour we started hearing noise of falling water droplets.
View from my office window; sky full of clouds. Time around 10:00 am.
Phone of my friends started ringing as they were receiving calls from schools to pick up their children as early as possible. They all started leaving office hurriedly. I was a bit surprised as such rain was quite normal for me. In my hometown, Lahore (Pakistan), it often heavily rains specially in monsoon season but things remain quite normal.
It was getting darker and darker with heavy pour from sky but without extreme winds. It was not a thunder-storm, just raining cats and dogs. 10.30 am.
Suddenly we went out of electricity. We were not sure whether it was a precaution taken by Saudi electricity company to avoid any incident or was there any problem in power transmission. Anyways, we were in darkness. Our company decided that whole staff should leave and go home.
I took this pic from my car window. Visibly was greatly reduced. So I decided to stay in car in my office parking until sky clears up.
After half an hour, rain intensity was reduced. When I reached at my company’s main gate to catch the main road, the view was horrible.
It was like a flood. It heavily rained for an hour only and there was a bed of almost one foot deep water everywhere. My company was in an industrial area so more open land, less housing and more horrific scene to see water flooding from everywhere. Time 11:00 am approx.
I was familiar with the way and knew that the road is smooth but still I was hesitant to move on. Few of my colleagues showed BRAVERY and accelerated their vehicles into water. I followed them :).
Just look at the current of water. Doesn’t it look like a flooded area?
The water column was getting higher and higher. I was a bit afraid that my car could stuck in middle of road if water would enter in car’s silencer.
Then I saw some people trying to tow their vehicle.
and then two more, jammed in water.
I decided not to take more risk and parked my sedan on an inclined pavement of a closed grocery store. How long would it take to dry out or at least water level to go down so that I can drive my car to home? I was thinking. Of course, not in a short while.
So I got out of my car, locked it and start walking towards my home.
Later that day, I came to know via my friends that water level is low now. I took a taxi from my home to my so-called parked car. Alhamdulilah (Praise to Allah), the car was safe. Though water was still on roads but not much to worry about. I drove back to home slowly but steadily (slow & steady wins the race :P).
Picking up my car and returning to home in evening.
Later, I heard in news that a number of vehicles were severely damaged or overturned in some areas in the city.
In my opinion, such one hour rain shouldn’t be causing panic and devastation in the city. I have seen similar and longer rains, even for 2~3 continuous days, in my country but things remain under control. In fact, people enjoy it. On the other hand, things are quite different in kingdom. Although Saudi Arabia is a rich state but they have not developed rain water drainage system in the country as rain is sparse. I lived three more years in Jeddah after this incident and it never rained again. If my memory is correct, not a single drop fell from sky during those three years. But still, keeping in view the casualties as well as financial loss that happen every other year because of rains, storm water drainage system should be developed at least in the major cities of the kingdom.
In short, if you are in Saudi Arabia for some reason and there is a forecast of heavy rain, be prepared and remain on safe place.