Lightning strikes, pilgrims progress
Just after 8 p.m. tonight, a serious lightning storm rolled through the region, hitting Mina first then continuing on to Mecca. It started as small drops of rain, but within minutes, it quickly worsened.
Heard it from my room, went to the rooftop, and started tweeting it almost immediately. There’s a lot of useless stuff on Twitter these days, but this was a case where you can definitely see why it has a clear advantage over traditional methods of delivering the news. Thanks to it, I was able to tweet out the first photo of a lightning strike in Mina – literally just seconds after it happened.
You can see the pic below:
The storm itself was a doozy – lasting for a good 45 minutes. At one point the winds were so high it became difficult to stay on the rooftop. Lightning bolts could be seen at least every 15 seconds or so. Counted close to a 100 or so before they had to evacuate all "non-essential" personnel from the roof. Emergency crews mobilized very quickly. Within minutes of the storm starting, I could see about two dozen flashing lights from emergency vehicles, with sirens echoing throughout the mountains.
In a desert landscape like this, it’s really quite the sight. Rain is rare in this part of Saudi Arabia, let alone a storm like this. Those in government provided tents should be able to weather it just fine. It’s the thousands of squatters who are in for a long night.
No word yet on any serious injuries. Will post updates as they become available.
What was interesting about the storm was that, even as the winds were howling at the night sky was being lit up, most pilgrims continued about their business. A steady stream continued to trickle to the jamaraat area for the “stoning the devil” ritual, many of them soaking wet with only flimsy umbrellas for cover. If a similar storm happened in Toronto, most life outdoors would slowly grind to a halt while the storm passed.
Not here. Pilgrims kept going about their business – perhaps a testimony to their commitment to complete the Hajj rites and leave the weather to a higher power.
Eyes on the prize, so to speak.