BEIRUT: Lebanon is expected to witness heavier rainfall Friday before much-awaited sunshine Saturday, according to the Meteorology Department at the Beirut airport, as fears this winter’s storm would result in massive damage and casualties have so far proven unwarranted.
Authorities remain cautious, however, with Caretaker Education Minister Hassan Diab releasing a statement saying classes would not be held in private and public schools Friday for the third day in a row.
A third person was killed in a weather-related accident Thursday in the Metn area. Vanita Patikiri, a Sri Lankan national, died at the hospital after her motorcycle skidded off Dahr al-Basheq road in the Metn region northeast of Beirut Wednesday during heavy rain.
The woman’s death was the third fatality after a winter storm swept through Lebanon Wednesday, when two people died in a car accident along the southern Sidon-Tyre highway by the town of Adloun.
Fears have run high of “Alexa” overwhelming the dilapidated infrastructure in Lebanon, which also hosts the region’s largest Syrian refugee population. Samira, who lives with her five children at a tent settlement in Wadi al-Hosn, echoed the sentiment of many refugee mothers, telling The Daily Star she could do little more than pray for her children’s safety.
“I hope the storm ends without causing any damage to my children,” said Samira, who fled the city of Nabk in Qalamoun a few months ago after her husband was killed.
More rain is expected Friday as a result of storm “Alexa” as temperatures in Beirut will peak at 12 degrees Celsius and go as low as 7, according to the Meteorology Department. Tyre will experience a high of 11 and a low of 7; the Cedars a high of minus 1 and a low of minus 9; Tripoli a high of 9 and a low of 4; Zahle a high of 3 and a low of minus 3, and Hermel a high of 4 and a low of minus 2 degrees.
Snowfall will cover levels as low as 600 meters, and could go even lower in the north of Lebanon, a spokesman at the department said, adding that the storm would recede Saturday and the country would experience a sunny Sunday with temperatures in Beirut reaching 16 degrees Celsius.
Despite some sunny spells, cold winds swept the country Thursday, and the brunt of the storm could be felt acutely in the north and northeastern regions.
The Tarshish-Zahle road was blocked due to heavy snowfall while Public Works Ministry personnel were able to reopen roads in Akkar including streets leading to several villages.Residents in Mount Akroum villages in Akkar, north Lebanon, pleaded for assistance as snow blocked roads and temperatures plunged to below 6 degrees Celsius. The villages were also affected by power outages and disruptions to telecommunications.
The storm has blocked many roads from Akkar to Hermel, from the Cedars to Ainata, and from Hadath al-Jibbe to Tannourine, due to heavy snowfall.
In the area of Dinnieh, the municipality established a temporary emergency center in order to face the storm, as temperatures in Ehden and Bsharri dropped as low as minus 7.
In Tripoli, several trees were uprooted as a result of strong winds and boats were damaged due to the high waves. Fourteen fishing boats sank.
In Hermel, 50 centimeters of snow covered the area, as many of the roads developed frost and several homes were deprived of water as it froze inside the pipes. Many of the towns and villages at 600 meters became isolated due to heavy snowfall which blocked the roads.
Temperatures dropped below zero in the northeastern area, which prompted many residents to stock up on food and fuel. They also called on the Public Works Ministry to spray salt on the frosted roads, particularly on the road from Hermel to Qobeiyat which links the Bekaa Valley to north Lebanon.
The Dahr al-Baidar road was open only to cars equipped with metal chains and four-wheel drives all day Thursday.
The Chouf region experienced continued snowfall at a light pace Thursday at an altitude of 1,100 meters as snowplows worked on opening the roads while the Chouf-Bekaa road remained closed.
In the south, high winds from the previous night brought huge waves crashing over the Tyre harbor wall and slamming the Serail. The municipality worked throughout the day to pump out the water, which also entered the offices of General Security located inside the port of Tyre.
Many cars along the port were damaged in addition to a number of fishing boats as a result of the high sea waves, which reached a height of 6 meters and slammed the sidewalk. Two tourist sailboats were also damaged.
Along the southern border, snow covered heights as low as 600 meters as the towns of Marjayoun, Hasbaya, Al-Arqoub and Rihan were covered with snow. In Shebaa, snow thickness exceeded 50 centimeters.
Only a few storm-related incidents were reported in Sidon, such as the blowing out of a few billboards and an electricity pole falling over a car. – Additional reporting by Mohammed Zaatari, Rakan al-Fakih, and Antoine Amrieh