People protect themselves from the sandstorm that affected Dubai Friday afternoon. Image Credit: Karen Dias/Gulf News

Dubai: A severe sandstorm hit the UAE on Friday afternoon throwing normal life off course and leaving behind damaged vehicles, fallen trees and debris in the middle of roads and highways.

UAE weather forecasters said the winds were very strong and their speed reached nearly 100km/h in some places.

"It was a sudden and quick development that pushed down a detachment of clouds from over Iran to the UAE," said a forecaster.

It was a curve-like movement that covered a wide area including Dubai, Sharjah, Al Ain and other parts of the southern emirates. Drizzle was also reported in Dubai and Sharjah.

In Dubai people ran for cover as the storm caught them by surprise.

It approached at approximately 1.30pm. Within minutes, dark clouds covered the sky with strong winds whipping up sand and dust. Motorists hurried to get out of the way as branches and entire trees fell.

Debris on the road

Debris, traffic cones and roadside barriers could be seen blown into the middle of roads and highways.

Parts of Shaikh Zayed Road were covered in sand within minutes, forcing traffic to slow significantly.

Some motorists were forced to pull over to the side of the road to avoid being hit by airborne objects.

Police vehicles were seen attending damaged vehicles.

One car with a smashed rear windscreen was parked at the side of Shaikh Zayed Road, and motorists had to zigzag their way through the bylanes to avoid large objects used in and around construction sites which had been blown onto the roads.

The storm lasted approximately 20 minutes in Dubai before moving on to other areas of the country.

In Sharjah the storm caused significant destruction.

Within a span of minutes a thick cloud of dust covered the uraban area accompanied by strong winds.

Residents said in many places visibility was reduced to a few metres and traffic in several streets was affected as the strong winds tossed garbage bins onto the roads. It also brought light drizzle in several areas.

Palm tree snapped

A fully grown palm tree was split in two, lamp posts were smashed onto the roads and garbage was strewn around in the city.

Traffic on many key roads was affected by the storm. Several residents reported that flying debris had damaged their vehicles.

In Karama, one resident said his vehicle was damaged by a TV dish falling on to his vehicle.

Many roadside hoardings fell in Dubai and Sharjah.

In Al Aweer at least 10 vehicles were involved in a pile-up immediately after the storm.

The dust storm that struck the country blew over yesterday afternoon as quickly as it came.

The skies were clear within two hours after the storm.

The dust storm hit Al Ain at 3.30pm yesterday afternoon with visibility being reduced to less than 100 metres.

The unsettled weather system has been heading east from the west.

Strong winds and rain hit Umm Al Quwain yesterday afternoon, accompanied by thunder, leading to a drop in temperatures and the accumulation of water in low-lying areas.

The rains continued throughout the day, with cloudy skies promising more rain to come.

In Fujairah and its surrounding areas, heavy rainfall also led to a drop in the temperature.

Rains accompanied by thunderstorms filled farms and low-lying areas with water, and the heavily clouded sky promises more rain.