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December 2nd, 2014 · No Comments · Abu Dhabi, Long Beach, UAE

Aside from four months in Hong Kong, six years ago, I have never spent any stretch of time in a rainy environment.

Abu Dhabi gets maybe two inches of rain a year. Often in the span of a few hours. But something less than two inches over the course of a year is not uncommon. As has been the case in most of the UAE the past 24 months or so.

Before living five years in the UAE, I spent nearly the whole of my life in greater Los Angeles, which is not quite a desert but not far from it.

The whole of California, including the normally wetter parts up north, has endured months of drought, so the gentle rain that fell nearly all day, here in Long Beach (and the snow up in the Sierra Nevada), was welcome. Meteorologically speaking.

Until we realized that we were beginning to become a but annoyed by it.

–A person can get wet out there. Yes, pelted from above by water droplets. And it is fairly impressive how quickly a person can get wet. Even in a gentle rain. It is an inconvenience, I tell you!

–Umbrellas! Now I get it. We must have one around here somewhere. No? No.

–When it rains, the clouds make for a dark day. Where is our light? And this can go on for hours? And places like Europe and the Pacific Northwest and the eastern U.S. … for days and days? And people still live there? What a concept.

–Driving in the rain is much trickier than on dry land. People here seem to understand that “we haven’t had rain of any significance since March, so the roads are going to be slick”. That is not a concept the UAE really grasps, perhaps because it gets so little rain the topic doesn’t come up more than a day or two a year, and everyone drives on a wet road like they would on a dry one — to their peril. Here, anyway, people turn on their lights and drive more slowly. Mostly.

–But both here and in the UAE, roads get particularly grimy after long stretches with no rain, and when an appreciable amount comes down, lots of filthy gunk (oil-based, a lot of it) ends up in storm drains and then in nearby major bodies of water.

No one in his right mind any time soon will go into the Pacific Ocean, here at Long Beach, because the Los Angeles River (the flood control channel that handles runoff from a hugh chunk of L.A. County) dumps into the Pacific essentially at the port of Long Beach. And the ocean water becomes filthy, and will be for days.

Same deal in Abu Dhabi. If enough rain falls in Abu Dhabi to get water into storm drains, do not go anywhere near the Corniche for days. For weeks. Because the run-off will be vile and likely to linger, given the limited movement of water in the Gulf.

The best part of rain here is … since greater L.A. is not quite a desert, the rain will lead to the greening up of the hills, and seeing those green mountains to the east always gladden the heart. (Even though it will happen after we have left.)

Abu Dhabi, being true desert, with sand (not soil) … just dries off and goes back to what it was — stark and austere, with only the hardiest of plants able to take advantage.

So, that was our storm for 2014, most likely. And the tenacity of it and how it made us think about how to handle it … was almost an out-of-body experience.


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