Visibility across Qatar was considerably reduced on Thursday and similar conditions are forecast in many areas on Friday as well. PICTURE: Shaji Kayamkulam

By Ramesh Mathew
Staff Reporter

The sandstorm that lashed Qatar late in the evening on Wednesday was a "rare and unusual occurrence", a senior official of the forecasting department has told Gulf Times.
"Though winds could continue to be strong at intervals in the next few days the chances of a repeat of such a severe sandstorm are rather remote and highly unlikely," Abdulla al-Mannai, head of forecasting section in the Department of Meteorology, explained.
A boatman, who steers a luxury dhow and has been a Doha resident for nearly 30 years, said he had never experienced such a sandstorm in Qatar.
Severe dusty conditions lasted for nearly four hours on Wednesday after the North Westerly winds from the Saudi Arabian Peninsula intensified.
While the air was filled with sand swirls that reduced visibility drastically, the fine dust swept in by the strong winds found its way into homes and offices.
The dusty conditions caught many residents unawares and there was a great demand for face masks on Thursday. Many pharmacies ran out of their stocks of the mask, while others were forced to enforce purchase limits to cater to as many residents as possible with the available stocks.
"Everything in Qatar turned a muddy brown colour because of the sandstorm," a long-time resident said, pointing to the dust-coated trees, vehicles and buildings.
"The dust blown in by the wind was so fine that it stuck to surfaces easily, masking many signboards," said another resident.
The forecast for Friday is strong winds at times and high seas up to 3pm. A minimum temperature of 20C and a maximum of 33C have been predicted.
While the inshore areas would remain relatively hot during the day, the conditions would be accompanied by dust and clouds.
The visibility would be in the region of four to nine km and offshore sea would rise anywhere between five and seven ft by evening.