There Are No Storm Drains In The Desert

Riyadh is not an exciting place.

As I have stated before, people break the monotony by eating or by shopping – even if they don’t need or want to do either of those things.  They might go to a coffee shop for an hour or so – maybe take the grill out to the desert and do some sand-sitting with friends or family.

On Friday (read Sunday), I usually buy groceries in the morning and hit the bookstore in the afternoon.  At the bookstore, I try not to buy anything; I have enough books.  But, it’s a place that is comfortable for me, and I can wander around unbothered as I scan the bookshelves and remainders tables – occasionally finding something worth snatching up for perusal.  Afterwards, I usually go to Starbucks, which is right next door, pick up a drink and head back to the apartment.  That’s how I typically spend 4pm – 5pm or so on a Friday afternoon.  Not exciting, but a break in the day.

Today (Friday) it has stormed all day long.  Thunderstorm after thunderstorm.  Bolts of lightning rising hundreds of feet into the sky from the earth.  Cracks of thunder so sharp as to jumpstart the old heart or so low as to seem as if it is rising from the core of the earth – shaking buildings as if it was an earthquake.  We even had some marble-sized hail about 2pm.  The storms started before I rose at 6:30am, and they are still coming and going 12 hours later, as I write this.

Like almost every other Friday, I walked out to the car and headed over to the bookstore around 4 o’clock.  This time, though, I did it during the rain.  On Fridays, I almost always take the back way to the store, through a section of the city that is still largely undeveloped, on a road that gives way to becoming a major thoroughfare navigating between commercial stores and office buildings waiting to be filled by tenants.  Today, I learned where every depression in the street is located. 

You can’t call it flash flooding, but it’s definitely flooding.  Thousands of gallons of rainwater collecting in low areas and dips.  If you want to get from one side to the other, you gotta drive through it.  In most cases, I would have turned around and gone back to the apartment.  However, I know this road pretty well, and I knew the water would rarely rise above 7″ – 8″.  But, that would be enough to get pretty close to the bottom of the chassis.  The biggest problem came with the slowness of the cars.  It’s necessary to go slow through these huge ponds (and there were about 10 before I got to the bookstore).  Unfortunately, the slowness seemed to exacerbate the churn, which meant water splashing up under the hood…getting all sorts of stuff wet that ain’t supposed to be wet.

It rains so seldom here that storm drainage is not cost effective.  Over the next few days, there’ll be mobile water pumps set up all around the city.  The most fun thing I’ve seen has been a bulldozer pushing water toward a pump, away from where the cars were driving. 

I wonder what would happen if they got a freak snowstorm and nature dropped 4″ on ’em?


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