Three years of rain in just eight hours, how do you explain it?


The rain that hit the Saudi city of Jeddah this week was the heaviest ever recorded in the coastal town of Saudi Arabia to date, said on Friday the spokesman for the National Meteorological Center of Saudi Arabia (NCM), Hussein al- Qahtani. There are no records of such excessive rainfall in such a short period in the local historical climatology.

The rain on Thursday lasted about eight hours, between 8 am and 5 pm local time, and totaled 179.7 mm, according to monitoring stations at the official Saudi weather forecast center. The volume surpassed Jeddah’s previous record set in 2009, when the NCM recorded 111mm of rain.

Jeddah is an ancient desert city of nearly 5 million people. The eight-hour volume of 179.7 mm is nearly double the daily rainfall record and nearly three times what the city receives on average over an entire year (61 mm). In just two hours there was 60 mm of precipitation.

The extreme rain episode of 2009, now surpassed by that of Thursday, caused a disaster in Saudi Arabia. At the time, the extreme rain caused more than a hundred deaths in the country, in addition to extensive damage.

Unofficial data mentions up to 246 mm of rain in 10 hours in the Jeddah area on Thursday and an instantaneous rate of rain (not accumulated volume) of 900 mm/hour at a particular weather station.

Winter storms and flooding occur nearly every year in Jeddah, where residents have long criticized poor infrastructure. Flooding killed 123 people in the city in 2009. In November 2017, Jeddah police received 11,000 calls in one morning following heavy rains in the city.

Why rain from years to hours?

Episodes of rain every year are absurdly uncommon in regions with a tropical or rainier climate because the annual averages are very high. This however is different in desert areas or arid regions. It is not uncommon for extreme rainfall events in deserts to produce precipitation for years in hours or days. Because the annual averages are very low. Therefore, an extreme rainfall event by local standards ends up easily surpassing the very low annual average.

The flood videos

Last year, a cold snap in Saudi Arabia also resulted in flooding in many parts of Jeddah. Saudis used the hashtag #جده_الان (Jeddah now) to share videos of the effects of Thursday’s rain on the city.

rain consequences

At least two people were killed, dozens of flights were delayed and schools were forced to close as Saudi Arabia braced for the storm. Videos circulating on social media showed the flooded streets of Jeddah and other areas of the Kingdom as people sought refuge from the flooding.

The city’s King Abdulaziz International Airport announced flight delays and urged all passengers to contact airlines to reschedule flights.

The official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported that schools in the city were closed. Classes were also suspended in the neighboring towns of Rabigh and Khulais to preserve student safety.

Local authorities employ 11,800 field workers to prepare for the rainy season. They have machinery and equipment to handle the expected conditions. Its operation and maintenance department assesses the performance of channels in the rainwater drainage network on main and secondary roads, intersections and squares.


The local government removes sediments that could impede the flow of water in the drainage systems, according to the contingency plans, which was not enough. Task forces and equipment were deployed in Makkah, with about 52 water tanks, each with a capacity of 194,000 gallons, removing floodwaters. Around 146 bulldozers and 89 multi-purpose trucks are dealing with the impact of the rain and pumping water from the roads and streets.

The teams were mobilized along with 520 machines, including trucks, pump tanks, Bobcats, tank trucks and automated sweepers, in addition to a large number of pumps and excavators. Work is being carried out 24 hours a day to implement the contingency plans.

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