Riyadh city, the capital of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has experienced a striking increase in urbanization over the past decades thus making it one of the fastest-growing cities worldwide. However, this city has been prone to natural hazards, such as sandstorms and rainy weather, which has negatively impacted the city. The flood resulting from heavy rains has caused driving hazards leading to accidents and damages in infrastructure. Similarly, sandstorms have also caused health problems, accidents, and air pollution, just to mention a few. This essay discusses the adverse effects of storms and rainy weather in Riyadh city.
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Sand Storm Hazards
Sandstorms refer to metrological events that occur in different regions worldwide. However, in Riyadh City in Saudi Arabia, sandstorms are a common occurrence. They are the primary source of long-distance transport of air and dust pollution. Furthermore, sandstorms cause different health problems. Also known as dust storms, they occur periodically and frequently under strong winds that blow dust from dry deserts globally. Dust storms are common in the Middle East. In Saudi Arabia, sandstorms occur in mid-July and late February with an estimated frequency of about 2-3 sandstorms monthly (Alamri, 2010). Sand storms carry different types of biological particles and dust that travel across many nations. Notably, the primary pollutants are emitted into the atmosphere directly. On the other hand, the secondary pollutants come from chemical reactions with other pollutants in the air.
Public concerns regarding the possible severe effects of dust storms have been on the increase. Notably, the occurrence of these dust events has become more common in the dry deserts of Saudi Arabia. Recently, sand storms have struck Riyadh city. Some researchers indicate that sandstorms engulfed the entire region thus disrupting flights. Visibility almost dropped to zero. Notably, the speed at which the dust storm traveled reached 60 miles, which is 96.5 km/per hour (Alamri, 2010). Undeniably, sand storms frequently occur in Riyadh city. They cause climate change. Besides, they also cause numerous health problems and air pollution. As a result, human health is significantly affected by the air pollution resulting from sandstorms. Notably, the respiratory system is the major target of air pollution. As a matter of fact, it leads to widespread acute and chronic effects.
Furthermore, air pollutants also interact with other different environmental exposures, such as microorganisms and allergen that enhance the detrimental impact of air pollution on human health. Most of the people in the Riyadh city with a runny nose, cough, acute asthma attacks, headaches, psychological disturbances, eye irritation, and wheezing complaints are the victims of the sandstorms effects. Moreover, there are those who complain of body aches, however statistically, there exists no evidence to prove the association between a sand storm and body pain (Alamri, 2010). Sandstorms cause severe health effects, in particular on the respiratory system. Notably, every 15-minute exposure to the small-sized sandstorm particles has the potential of causing asthma. Similarly, those exposed to a sandstorm for 24 minutes develop different respiratory complaints, for instance, asthma. Further research shows that air pollution has been a common contributor to adverse respiratory outcomes, such as bronchitis, exacerbations of asthma, cough, and respiratory systems (Alamri, 2010). Findings indicate that air pollution caused by sandstorms can easily lead to general health complaints and acute respiratory problems.
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The prevalence of respiratory and general health symptoms among individuals exposed to sandstorms in Riyadh city shows an increased frequency of asthma, rhinitis, cough, and conjunctivitis. Inhaling dust exposures, microorganisms, and endotoxin put the exposed individuals at the risk of developing serious health problems and respiratory complaints. In other studies, respiratory health problems were also common among high school students who attended schools located in various zones experiencing high pollution characteristics. Some of the respiratory systems, such as chronic pulmonary disease, cough, and chest tightness were common among the students who attended schools where the pollution level was too high. To compare, people exposed to sandstorms in Taiwan developed allergic rhinitis with approximately 19% of cases reported (Alamri, 2010). However, in the present study, 51% of individuals exposed to storm developed a runny nose.
In 2015, September 14, in Cairo, health services continued handling the adverse impact of the sandstorm that had hit the Middle East. Dozens of people were sent to hospitals due to a large number of casualties. The health risks, mainly the respiratory system, increased greatly. Other countries in the region, such as Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iraq, and Egypt were widely affected by the clouds of sand and dust thus causing flight delays and also disrupting school activities (Alamri, 2010). In Riyadh city, sandstorms are the primary cause of both viral and bacterial infections, especially affecting those with weaker immune systems, such as small children and the elderly. In Saudi Arabia, dust storms often occur during the summer months.
Recent studies have shown that at least five sandstorms happen in Riyadh city yearly. If the wind is so severe, a single storm can last for about 18 to 20 hours (Alamri, 2010). In a sandstorm that occurred in 2012, one single storm that had hit Saudi Arabia affected over 400 citizens. Nearly all the victims were diagnosed with respiratory problems caused by dust storms. Almost a quarter of those involved were children since they are more vulnerable to sandstorms. Uncontrolled asthma can adversely affect the quality of life for patients. As a result, this consistently makes them feel fatigued. Furthermore, they also face a mounting financial burden due to the high costs of medical treatment and other costs, such as days off from work or school. In adverse cases, untreated asthma can result in respiratory failure or pneumonia. In some cases, this can be severe. Thus, there is a need for raising public awareness to help asthmatics handle the disease.
A recent sandstorm in Riyadh city caused 354 traffic accidents leading to eight injuries (Alamri, 2010). Luckily, no deaths cases were reported. Notably, eighteen collisions occurred thus causing the injuries; however, there were no fatalities. Several vehicles were damaged due to the accidents reported. Traffic congestions and a lack of visibility were reported to be the leading causes of accidents. Notably, before the storm occurred there was an awareness alert among drivers from the Riyadh traffic department concerning hazardous driving conditions and sandstorms. The 2015 sand storm also caused disruption to the outgoing and incoming flights at King Khalid International Airport (KKIA) (Alamri, 2010). This airport was closed for over seven hours, and this is the time when the airport cleared for landing. All the Riyadh-bound flights which had been diverted to the neighboring countries eventually landed at KKIA. Other planes also departed from the airport with passengers.
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Several tips can help individuals survive sandstorms. One of them is to stay indoors. Besides, when indoors, it is advisable to close all doors and windows in case a storm approaches. Secondly, all cracks around windows should be sealed and, if possible, use a door draught excluder. Thirdly, a protective mask and water are important things to carry especially during hot days since most sandstorms occur is a spell of hot weather. The best mask to purchase is the one that filters particulars. In Riyadh, most of them are found in Saco and DIY stores (Alamri, 2010). Surgical masks can also work, but they might not be helpful in filtering small particles. Wearing goggles also helps to protect the eyes in case of a sandstorm. Turning air conditioners off is also useful. A sandstorm is a temporary occurrence. However, breathing in bacteria, pollutants, and dust has long-term effects on the body. Air purifiers and humidifiers are also other ways in which an individual can survive a sandstorm.
Rainy Weather Hazards
January, February, November, March, and December are considered the best weather periods in Riyadh with favorable average temperature. On the other hand, the months of April, May, June, July, August, September and October are considered the spells of very hot weather in the capital of Saudi Arabia. The residents of Riyadh city have been experiencing a shocking phenomenon, such as heavy rainfalls and flooding leading to injuries, deaths, and damages to public infrastructure and buildings. The torrential rains have also lashed Jeddah, another big city in Saudi Arabia, for two consecutive years. The primary causes of these disasters refer to climate change which has impacted various aspects of life in Riyadh city. There is a dire need for developing special operations of the Civil Defense sector to deal with cases of climate change (Sharif et al., 2016). Well-equipped flood-proof shelters ought to be established especially in the main cities in Saudi Arabia. As a result, this will provide individuals with temporary relief centers. All future public transport systems should meet all new safety requirements caused by climate change.
Currently, Saudi Arabia has been suffering from global warming-related to the problem of climate change. Global warming negatively affects individuals’ behavior, agricultural activity and health alongside other things. Most countries suffer from adverse climate change. Countries such as North America, Australia, India, and China will have to adapt to unseasonable torrential downpours, unstable temperatures, and floods (Sharif et al., 2016). The climatic change in Saudi Arabia offers an opportunity for individuals to learn how to handle future emergencies. At the end of November 2016, the deserts in the city of Riyadh were covered with snow. Many Saudi residents were overjoyed and marked the occasion by building snowmen. Unfortunately, the weather changed promptly and turned out to be extremely hazardous.
In the northern part of Saudi Arabia, the first snowfall pattern was experienced on November 23 (Sharif et al., 2016). In Saudi, mid-October is the month when rains are expected to start. Even though this period was welcomed with a lot of joy, as the temperatures continued to rise and the rain increased, most parts were flooded thus leaving seven people dead by November 29. On the other hand, several others were injured and trapped by the massive floods and rains that swept the Riyadh city. Among the dead people were three young Saudi men in Bisha. Two others were from Baha. Furthermore, two expatriates were reported to be struck by a thunderbolt in Qunfudah (Sharif et al., 2016).
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Torrential floods also destructed several houses, overturned vehicles, and blocked roads. The floods and rains also uncovered the ineffective drainage system in various places in Riyadh city. The civil defense in Riyadh has come up with strategic plans purposely made to meet all the emergencies caused by flooding and rains (Sharif et al., 2016). The Presidency of Meteorology and Environment (PME) claims that thunderstorms accompanied by rains and sandstorms are highly predictable in areas such as Qassim, Hail, the northern and western parts of Riyadh and Hafr Al-Batin. The Director of the Civil Defense, Maj. Gen Ahmed Bin Ayesh Ettalhi, states that there will be 180 teams, which include 720 officers responsible for attending to the emergency need of those in distress during the rainy weather (Sharif et al., 2016). He added that the plans are being coordinated with the assistance of Riyadh municipality. Authorities have also been alerted to follow the Supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) electronic systems which will monitor the rising water levels, especially in reservoirs.
In conclusion, it is an undeniable fact that dust storms and rainy weather are the common hazards in Riyadh city. These hazards have negatively impacted Riyadh residents. Road traffic congestions, accidents, respiratory problems, and infrastructure damages are only some of the adverse outcomes these hazards can cause. Thus, it will be of much importance if the environmental protection agencies involve electronic and print media in providing appropriate information concerning the exact time and location of the sandstorm to minimize the number of potential casualties. They should also raise public awareness of the months when heavy rains are expected and provide necessary information on measures to be taken to avoid serious danger. Furthermore, people should carry respiratory protection devices, for instance, masks designed to filter minute particulars and also airtight goggles which will protect their eyes. In the desert areas, people can also cultivate fallow systems and land to minimize sandstorm frequency. Therefore, sandstorms and rainy weather discussed in this paper are the most dangerous hazards experienced in Riyadh city.