Thursday, November 26, 2009

When It Rains, It Pours!

A n unbelievable downpouring of rain showers fell in Jeddah yesterday over a period of several hours, wreaking havoc on this normally very dry city and the surrounding area.

I woke up to dark heavy clouds and the rare sound of ominous thunder. I have never seen it rain here like this in the two years I have lived here. I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I had seen it "rain" here before, and I would have called it sprinkles not rain.
Since it rains so rarely here, Jeddah is not equipped to handle the flash flooding that comes with this type of heavy rainfall. There is no where for the water to go so the streets become like raging rivers.

Yesterday I would estimate in some areas that the water was at least three feet deep. Hundreds of vehicles were disabled and stranded and some passengers even required helicopter rescue.
I read this article in the Arab News reporting that at least 24 people died as a result of the flooding, but an updated article places the death toll now at more than 75. I saw children and grown men getting drenched out in the rain and wading into the waters.
Many of the main thoroughfares in Jeddah have curbed center road dividers separating several lanes of traffic, and then another set of curbed dividers for the service access roads. In many areas that I saw, these dividers were totally immersed underwater, creating a dangerous situation for vehicles trying to navigate their way through.
Some hotdog drivers (remember women are not allowed to drive here in Saudi Arabia) were weaving through the high waters at unsafe speeds, trying to create big waves to disrupt other safe-minded drivers who were not so daring, while others lent a helping hand to those who needed it.
Here in Jeddah, it is not unusual to see vehicles driving on the wrong side of divided streets, but yesterday it was even more common as drivers attempted to avoid deeper waters on one side of the street or the other.
Arab News photo by Adnan MahdaliIronically this heavy rainfall coincided with the first day of Hajj, the religious pilgrimage to Makkah where millions of visitors descend upon this area of the world. Most of them enter the country through Jeddah, as Makkah is just a one hour drive away. Aside from some Hajjis being stranded due to the heavy rains, the pilgrims in Makkah surprisingly managed to go about their religious rituals relatively unaffected by the inclement weather.
Businesses experienced loss of sales, schools were closed early, and there were heavy traffic delays and electrical outages. I lived through many hurricane seasons in South Florida, and this episode in Jeddah would rival the amount of rainfall received in that area of the world, just without the high winds.

UPDATE: An Arab News report on November 28th says that as many as 350 people are still unaccounted for and hundreds of others' homes were destroyed by the floods.


  1. thanks for sharing all the photos...
    i guess global warming is real?

  2. What a tremendous blog.
    I am writing a press release for expatwomen and would like to get a quote from you.
    Could you kindly contact me : pebblesoup at

  3. Its the Venice of the middle east lol!

  4. Rain is such a blessing especially in this part of the world that many times we all forget how terrible it can cause chaos.

    When my husband told me it rained for Hajj I was like SUBHANALLAH!! How wonderful for them, Then he gave me an odd look and said "Yeah but 24 poeple died." I was like Ohh....
    but still it is amazing after so long to get such heavy rain. And timed "coincedently" with hajj. SO I still say Masha'Allah it's a pure gift from ALlah.

    I love your pictures Suzie. They tell an awesome story!!!
    LOL I have to ask was anyone swimming? Kids playing in the water?

  5. Wow, we could use some rain here, but not that much at once!
    Happy Thanksgiving.

  6. Susie, your photos are great. You were brave to go out in the flood.
    Will all this water eventually flow into the sea?

  7. Salaam Aleykum to you, Susie, and a Blessed Kurban Bayram/ Eid al-Adha.

    Insh'Allah the waters will soon subside and everyone will be safe.

  8. Thanks for the weather post. I was curious and your blog did much more for me than the BBC news story. Zoe

  9. i love your blog. amazing that u actually went out to take the pics. I would have love to do that but in my abaya?

  10. Jeddah's an absolute disaster. Apparently many people are missing. I actually don't think the rain was that much- I mean for here it was- but not as much as I often experienced in California- maybe there was more in your part of town. Also, if there was a lot toward the mountains it will flow this way. BUT they have no drainage system. And this keeps happening and nothing changes. In a couple of weeks will up to our necks in mosquito born diseases. Just Splendid.

    They say they want rain... they pray for rain, but they do nothing to prepare and protect the people. Grrrr.

    And to the above poster- the people swimming were swimming for their lives. It isn't a fun situation.

  11. I read about this and immediately thought of you and I am glad to see that you are ok.

  12. Thanks for featuring my blog on your email!!

  13. Hiya Susie...nice going thru anything and everything i can to see what happened in sis and family live there...we are Indian and she is muslim now....she jus lost her young 10yr old boy Saeed in the flash heart goes out to all who experienced this kind of loss....material things can be built back or recovered but the loss of a precious life...i dont think so....Jen

  14. Jen--I am sorry for your family's loss. I understand the death toll is mounting as more are identified. 98 deaths so far, and 98 too many.

  15. Hi Susie,

    Just stoppin' by to say my salutations and hope that you and your family are well :-D

    Take care!!


  16. Susie - great pics. We heard about the floods here in Bahrain, but I hadn't seen any photos.

  17. Hi Susie,

    I was working in a dam project near Usfan/Jeddah and every body was asking me the reason of the construction. Now I have an answer.


  18. Amazing pictures. Amazing weather. Reminds me just a little of the aroyos in AZ. Hope your Saudi family is all safe and well amidst this.

  19. Susie--thanks for posting on this topic so early and with your own photos. I have referenced and linked this post, and the one you did on Jeddah Daily Photo Journal, to one I just did on Tara's blog:

  20. Good on you for braving the raging flood waters to take these amazing photos! Jeddah has a special place in my heart - worked and lived there 7 years. It is a relaxed, magical place, and it's people are warm, friendly, and very accommodating. My car was bogged in sand in a far away beach. It was getting dark, as it was a Friday night most of the people had gone home and the area was virtualy deserted. When I saw the tide slowly inching towards the car, I nearly freaked out when, from nowhere, a Saudi man appeared. When he saw my dilemma, he piled bunches of dried brush underneath the rear wheels, asked me to drive away, presto, the car was freed from it's sandy trap! I thanked him profusely but he just smiled and drove off. I will return to Jeddah in a heartbeat. Meantime, keep posting your wonderful photos. I'm a fan!

  21. With spending so much time in the Pacific Northwest, you must have taken the rain with you. It’s a shame that lives were lost with too much so quickly.

  22. its very sad that a city like jeddah which boasts some of the most massive houses and palaces cannot survive a little rain!!! how do you build an entire city without a proper drainage system??? it was not happy eid at all this year.....

  23. What a shame. I hope it has gotten better. Looks like a Florida tropical storm.

  24. Excellent post! This flood will be similar to blizzard & electrical black out stories in NYC. Do you remember the floods of 2009?