Impact of February's Heavy Rain on Dubai's Traffic

February 17, 2024
12 mins read
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The unseasonal downpour cast a wet blanket over Dubai, completely transforming the usual buzz of its roads into a somewhat slower, yet persistently pulsating rhythm. Shifts in movement patterns emerged from February 13th and 14th as the city witnessed an unusual surge in precipitation. As a journalist passionately engaged in dissecting urban dynamics, I couldn't help but get engrossed in the ensuing alterations to the city's traffic flow.

In this comprehensive analysis, we will unravel the layers of data gathered during these rainy days. The findings sketch a compelling portrait of a city adapting itself to an unexpected weather upheaval. We will closely examine the variations in traffic speed, the ebb and flow of vehicles during different parts of the day, and how different roads and road types responded to this weather-triggered transformation.

380 million GPS data points (big data) are analyzed to showcase key statistics about the city transportation road network.

Data used in the study and overview of Dubai Road Infrastructure

22,213 KM length of road of different classes are analyzed. The sum of road links length from different class from motorway to local road in the area of study below represent those 22,213 KM.

Road links in Dubai, like other cities span over multiple classes, where class 0 is major motorway while class 5 is less major road but still of decent width and importance. Narrow local roads and road allies of class 6 and 7 are excluded.

Road Class

Road Class


Total Distance (km)





Major Roads



Secondary Roads



Tertiary Roads



Local Connecting Roads



Local Roads


Total Distance (km)   22,213.5 KM

GPS movement data

380 million GPS data point samples ((big-data) are analyzed. GPS data points are matched on road links for statistics extraction and final map-matched data is produced by TomTom and the sample size is shown in the map below:

Data is collected between Feb 11th, 2024 and Feb 15th, 2024.

The sample size is too big and can reflect the intensity of traffic movement over different days, overall only 10.7% of traffic in dubai moves between 00:00 to 06:00 am, while 30.5% of the overall traffic happens between 06:00 and 12:00.

35.9% of Dubai traffic moves between 12:00 and 18:00 indicating it’s the most busy time of the day to be on the road. And finally 22.9% of traffic movement happens between 18:00 and 24:00.

Output image

Motorways and secondary roads capture the majority of the traffic in Dubai

Output image

Median speed over different road classes

Understanding the impact of harsh weather conditions specifically recognizes the importance of median speed across different road classes. As the rain intensifies, the stress on infrastructure greatly increases. Depending on the precise nature of the roadway, traffic speeds may be affected differently.

Highway: Of all the road classes, highways were the most affected by heavy rain. Known for fast-moving traffic, the waterlogging disrupted the smooth flow, significantly lowering the median speed. Drivers were observed practicing caution, leading to a reduction in speeds, primarily during peak hours.

Arterial Roads: Meanwhile, arterial roads also reported a substantial decrease in median speed. Crucial for intra-city commute, these reported more slowdowns and occasional standstills. With rain affecting visibility as well as road grip, moving traffic was difficult, to say the least.

Residential Streets: Residential areas, on the other hand, experienced an effect that was a bit different. While the speed decrease was still observable, it was not as significant as on arterial and highway roads. Here, a larger volume of traffic was a more pressing concern due to diverted traffic from congested arterial roads.

Key Findings

Before we delve deeper into the results of our analysis, let's set the stage. We've meticulously studied the traffic patterns of Dubai during the heavy rains of February 13th and 14th. This weather event offered us a unique opportunity to observe and measure the impact of adverse conditions on the city's normal traffic flow. We focused on key elements such as overall traffic speed, volume, and specific road behavior. Now allow us to share with you, our key findings.

Traffic Volume Increase

The average sample size increased by 44.08, indicating more traffic congestion or slower traffic.

Overall Traffic Speed Decrease

The overall traffic speed decreased by approximately 14.11 km/h on February 13th and 14th compared to other days.

Decrease in Speed per Road Class (FRC)

Our analysis found that Freeways and Arterial roads saw the most significant speed reductions. This effect is likely due to the higher traffic volumes these roads typically handle, leading to more significant congestion when rain-induced slowdowns occur. On the contrary, Local roads, while also affected, saw less pronounced speed reductions, most probably because slower speeds are the norm due to their usage and design.

Collector roads seemed to strike a balance, with speed reductions falling between those of the higher-capacity roads and Local roads. The geography and physical features of these roads might play a role in how they react to weather adversities.

Road Class


Speed Decrease (km/h)





Major Roads



Secondary Roads



Tertiary Roads



Local Connecting Roads



Local Roads


This observation underscores the vital role of adverse weather conditions in traffic management and road design considerations in urban settings like Dubai. Fine-tuning our infrastructure to better handle these conditions can significantly improve the overall fluidity and reliability of road networks, especially during inclement weather, thus enhancing the overall commutation experience.

Times of the Day Most Impacted

Time Slot

Average Speed (km/h)

0-6 AM


6-12 PM


12-6 PM


6-12 AM


The most significant speed reduction occurred during the afternoon and evening hours (12-6 PM and 6-12 AM).

Output image

Specific Road Segments with Higher Speed Reductions

Let's take a closer look at the specific road segments where the speed reductions were most pronounced. Our data analysis has revealed that certain roads have been hit particularly hard by the heavy rainfall on February 13th and 14th, leading to considerable disruptions of the traffic flow and significantly lower speeds than usual.

Street Name

Speed Reduction (%)

شارع 9أ (Street 9A)


شارع المصلى (Al Masalla Street)


شارع الشيخ صباح الاحمد الجابر الصباح (Sheikh Sabah Street)


شارع الرمث (Al Rimth Street)


شارع 7 (Street 7)


The exact reasons for these changes in speed can be multifarious. Roads with poor drainage systems may have been more prone to flooding, reducing the speed vehicles could safely travel at. Alternatively, incidents such as accidents or breakdowns in specific areas could have contributed to slower speeds. In any case, understanding which areas were hardest hit by the weather conditions could be beneficial in developing strategies to minimize the impact of similar scenarios in the future.

Impact on Major roads

When it started raining on the busy roads of Dubai, the usual hustle and bustle slowed down, quite literally. Major roads, known for their swift vehicular movements, suffered a tangible decrease in overall speeds, much to the dismay of commuters.

Let's take, for instance, Sheikh Zayed Road - one of the busiest roads in Dubai. On a regular day, this road maintains a high average speed. However, during the heavy downpours on February 13th and 14th, the average speed dropped drastically. That's not all. This phenomenon was also observed on other major roads, such as the Emirates Road and the Al Khail Road, demonstrating a widespread impact of the weather conditions.

This significant effect on major roads not only strained the traffic flow but also had an indirect consequence on secondary roads. These subsidiary roads, although designed to cater to lower traffic volumes, started receiving increased traffic as drivers sought alternate routes to bypass the major highways' slow-moving traffic.

In essence, the dense showers had a cascading effect on Dubai's road network, affecting not just the primary highways but also trickling down to the city's secondary roads.


The heavy rain on February 13th and 14th had a significant impact on Dubai's traffic, causing a decrease in overall traffic speeds, especially during the afternoon and evening hours. Specific road segments experienced substantial speed reductions, and there was an increase in traffic volume during the rainy days. This analysis provides valuable insights into the effects of adverse weather conditions on urban traffic flow.


Data provided by LocationMind and TomTom.

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