Saturday afternoon just as we were arriving back in the marina after a pleasant lunch and snorkle at Tadpole, a local sand bar on the reef, the weather changed dramatically. One minute Shawa’al was motoring in flat calm seas between the wave break pontoons at the entrance and the next she was almost over on her ear as the wind hit us from the land.
The westerly or north-westerly wind which was later reported as blowing 48 knots at the airport and closer to 60 knots at sea howled, full of sand from Saudi for the rest of the day. It was accompanied by thunder and lightening and a some dusty rain, like those big drops that herald a summer downpour in England. The boat tied up, we carried on with the jobs we had intended to do as long as we could. The temperature rose significantly as the wind was extremely hot to somewhere around 40 degrees centigrade, we retreated to the aircon comfort of the bar for pints of soft drinks. Inland the visibility was reduced to a few yards making driving hazardous. Everyone said they’d never know weather like it at this time of the year and it certainly wasn’t forecast.
Around the Bahrain coast small boats had to anchor at sea until it blew through later that night including a few from the yacht club. Across the border in Saudi at least one airport was closed. A few shanty houses were destroyed, swimmers at Budiyia in the north-west got into difficulties, advertising hoardings broke free endeangering motorists and pedestrians whilst according to the Gulf Daily News the following day two window cleaners needed rescuing from a high rise building in town. Its still making news in today’s papers with calls to ensure safer housing and advertising hoardings.
Digging around afterwards I found the phenomenom is called Al Sarrayat and is caused by a low pressure, characterised by the extreme wind, a sudden rise in temperature and thunderstorms. Apparently common in Kuwait (see this dramatic picture taken last month) around this time of the year, its obviously less well known in Bahrain.