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    Posted March 10, 2009 by
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Severe weather

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    Massive Dust Storm -- Riyadh


    Dear CNN:

    I've been trying for hours to upload my story and photos using your iReport page. Each time it hangs and and hangs and hangs. So I am sending the pics and stories by email. I hope you can use them and post them for me. Thanks.

    Jason Douglas Dicks

    Riyadh, Saudi Arabia



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    In my 6 years in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia there are many things with which I have learned to live. The heat, for instance, can be tolerated (with the help of air conditioning, of course). Language barriers can be overcome. Inconveniences can be endured. One thing I have not, however, learned to handle well are the dust storms that periodically blanket the major cities of the Kingdom.

    Tuesday, March 10, 2009 saw one of the larger, more significant dust storms in recent memory roll into Riyadh from the north, carried forward with astonishing speed by a cold north wind. At approximately 11:00 a.m. local time, as I sat at my desk in Al-Anoud Tower on King Fahad Highway, I began to hear mobile phone message alerts chime one after another around me. Soon afterwards, my colleagues informed me that the mother of all dust storms had just had its way with the northing region of Qaseem and was knocking on the gates of Riyadh.

    From my 12th floor vantage point, I could see, far in the flat distance a vague haze. Ten minutes later, that haze was nearer and growing in size. I made my way to the 16th floor balcony where I could see the approaching storm looming behind the landmark Kingdom Tower, which is owned by billionaire investor, Prince Waleed Bin Talal. My building has a total of 20 floors. The Kingdom Tower, or "Mamlaka" as it is called here, is more than 77 stories high. The accompanying pictures show how this massive, billowing wall of dust first nudged, then hugged, then climbed and then engulfed the imposing tower.

    Within seconds, a bright sunny day turned ominously orange. A few seconds later, it was almost like night. From the 12th floor, even cars driving past on the busy thoroughfare were entirely invisible. For the next three hours it felt as if we were floating in the middle of a huge brown cloud. Anecdotal reports rolled in from colleagues with friends working with the traffic police. By one count some 50 accidents had occurred within the first hour of the storm. The brave amongst us headed out to pick up children from school and to rush home to close windows that had been left open to the cool air of the morning. By 5:00 p.m. a dull haze still hung over the city. Thankfully, the drive home was uneventful. Now I can look forward to cleaning, again, the air conditioning filters that I just had cleaned last week.

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