Lebanese brace for weekend of intense storms, snowfall at high altitudes
By Wassim Mroueh

BEIRUT: A heavy weekend storm is expected to lash Lebanon until Monday, ending weeks of unseasonable warm and dry weather and bringing the first snowfall of winter.

Despite the heavy rain that battered the capital on Friday evening, Beirut residents took to the streets and engaged in impromptu dancing to celebrate the long-awaited deluge. One week earlier, preachers held public prayers for rain in the wake of the worrying dry spell, which has had a negative impact on the country’s water supplies.

The meteorological department of the Civil Aviation Authority said the weather Saturday will see heavy rainfall and storms, with a significant drop in temperature, and snowfall at an altitude of 1,400 meters.

The department said winds are expected to reach 100 kilometers per hour, as the storm impairs visibility on the coast and the mountains. It also warned that the heavy rainfall could flood streets and impair sewage networks.

Even heavier snowfall is expected Sunday night, at an altitude of 1,200 meters, while on Monday snow is expected to fall at 1,100 meters in the Bekaa Valley and North Lebanon.

Temperatures will range Saturday between 11 degrees Celsius and 22 degrees Celsius in coastal areas, between 6 degrees Celsius and 14 degrees Celsius in the mountains, between 0 degrees Celsius and 9 degrees Celsius in the Cedars and between 5 degrees Celsius and 18 degrees Celsius in interior regions.

Media reports said a total of 200 mm of rain is expected to fall during the storm, after Lebanon experienced a nearly precipitation-free November. Waves on the coast are expected to reach 6 meters.

As for any effects on aviation, an official from the department told The Daily Star that authorities at Rafik Hariri International Airport were the only side to judge whether the storm would have any negative impact on the terminal’s activity.

The official said people should beware of loose objects that might fall from buildings due to windy weather and those driving in mountainous areas should watch out for possible landslides.

He recommended that drivers at an altitude above 1,200 meters equip their cars with iron chains, as the country’s fishermen’s ports are expected to either close or exercise caution due to the rough weather.

The official said no accurate predictions could be made on whether the storm would reoccur soon, and added that the storm might start to ease by Monday.

The Civil Defense, Internal Security Forces and municipalities across the country were busy undertaking preparations ahead of the storm.