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Fri 1 Feb 2008 01:52 PM

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Winter whiteout fails to bring UAE to its knees

But strong winds uproot trees, damage signage and make for difficult driving conditions.

Winds gusting up to 65 kilometres an hour (kph) struck the UAE on Friday, affecting visibility but failing to bring the country to a halt with the total whiteout predicted during the week.

Dubai's famous skyline was barely visible for much of the day as gale force winds kicked up sand and dust into the air, making for hazardous driving and unpleasant conditions for anyone walking the city's streets.

Conditions were worse in open areas, with Dubai's open-air shopping centre Global Village forced to close for the day and motorists reporting strong winds and poor visibility on the road between Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

In Dubai, strong winds uprooted trees and left branches strewn over the streets, as well as damaging advertising boards and knocking over construction site boarding.

However, by Saturday winds had died down and sunny skies had returned to much of the UAE, although temperatures were still below normal for the time of year.

The break in the weather was good news for golfers, including Tiger Woods, battling it out at the Dubai Desert Classic. Poor conditions had hampered play on Friday.

Dubai Meteorological Office warned on Wednesday that a sandstorm could hit Dubai over the weekend, with gale-force winds caused by a high-pressure system building over Saudi Arabia, and strong north-westerly winds blowing in from Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain.

The high winds are a result of the shamal wind, a wave of high pressure that funnels through the Gulf between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

The winds can last three to 40 days and are thought to be the most hazardous weather condition in the region.

The sandstorm warning comes just as the UAE is recovering from three days of heavy rains earlier this month, causing widespread flooding that resulted in traffic chaos across much of the Emirates.

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