Heavy snowfall hits Syria, Lebanon, Israel in winter storm

BEIRUT (AP) — Snow blanketed parts of Syria, Lebanon and Israel yesterday, blocking roads, disrupting traffic and postponing exams at some universities.

Large parts of Syria were covered, including the capital Damascus which is witnessing this winter’s first snowfall. Snow was as high as 15 centimetres in the mountains of Sweida province, according to the official state news agency SANA.

Roads in some provinces were blocked. In the central province of Hama, bulldozers shoveled snow to open roads while vehicles skidded on ice, further causing traffic disruption.

The University of Damascus called off mid-term exams in its branches around Syria because of the extreme weather conditions. The country’s ports remained open.

In the northwestern Syria, civil defence teams have been building dirt mounds since Tuesday around displaced persons’ camps to prevent the rain from flooding the crowded areas.

An old mobile artillery piece sits covered with snow in a memorial site near the Quneitra border crossing. PHOTO: AP

Nearly three million displaced people live in northwestern Syria, mostly in tents and temporary shelters. Heavy rainfall last month damaged over 190 displacement sites, destroying and damaging over 10,000 tents.

In neighbouring Lebanon, Storm Joyce hit on Tuesday with gale force winds registering between 85km/h and 100km/h.

The storm is expected to get stronger today.

Breaking a warm spell, the storm brought heavy rainfall, a sharp drop in temperatures and the heaviest snow fall in Lebanon this year. Snow is expected to cover areas of altitudes as low as 400 metres high, according to the Meteorological department.

Nearly a dozen roads in eastern and northern Lebanon were closed to traffic because of the snow.

The Israeli Meteorological Service forecast heavy thunderstorms and cold temperatures across much of the country, with snowfall at higher altitudes expected.

Heavy snowfall covered the Golan Heights near the border with Syria.