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Sandstorm blankets Saudi Arabia’s capital Riyadh

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A sandstorm engulfed Saudi Arabia’s capital and other regions of the Kingdom Tuesday, hampering visibility and slowing road traffic.

A thick grey haze made iconic Riyadh buildings such as Kingdom Centre nearly impossible to see from more than a few hundred meters away, though there were no announced flight delays or cancelations.

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The Kingdom’s meteorology center forecast “surface dusty winds” in the country’s east and in Riyadh, “reducing horizontal sight,” according to the official Saudi Press Agency.

Dusty conditions were also expected farther west in the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, according to the forecast.

Electronic signs along Riyadh’s highways warned drivers to reduce their speed because of the lower visibility.

In central Riyadh, sand layered cars and buildings, and residents fought to keep it out of their homes.

Saudi office worker Abdullah al-Otaibi said he was grateful he works indoors.

“Dust storms are part of our culture and we are used to it, but some of them are severe,” said al-Otaibi, 39, rubbing his eyes as he hurried into his office building.

Parts of Saudi Arabia typically see sandstorms between March and May, with varying intensity.

Neighboring Iraq has experienced eight sandstorms since mid-April, a phenomenon fueled by soil degradation, intense droughts and low rainfall linked to climate change.

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