Reports of the severity of the winter storm that hit the Levant on January 9 seem to be justified from both the human and meteorology aspects. There are far more people now forced to live outside, often on the higher ground, but it looks like this month's weather is already worse than last year in many ways.

The year 2013 is acknowledged as a harsh winter, snow fell in Cairo for the first time in over 100 years, but for Damascus it showed itself by only a centimetre or two of snow that thawed quickly. There was more than one repeat performance but each time a fairly quick thaw.

This year Damascus has amassed 10 to 15cm of snow. The city is about 700 metres above sea level and 80km inland so should be prone to snow. It is, however, sheltered by the Anti-Lebanon mountains, the range which contains Mount Hermon. As a result, it has, as an average, rain on 33 days a year and snow on only two.

This year, about 5cm of snow fell on January 7 and another 12cm on the 11th. It was the latter fall that blanketed Syria, the Bethel hills and Jerusalem. On Thursday, it is raining in Damascus, while snowing again in the Bekaa Valley in eastern Lebanon.

The Bekaa Valley is very long but the concentration of refugee camps is near the Damascus-Beirut highway. This area is too wide to be sheltered much by the mountains, it’s only 30km from the Mediterranean and is about 900m above sea level.

It started snowing here too on January 7 and 20cm was on the ground fairly quickly. This was up to 43cm by the 9th and the temperature dropped to minus 2C. The temperature dropped to minus 11 Celsius by dawn on January 10 and has been sub-zero every night since.

Daytime temperatures have crept above zero but on Thursday morning, it snowed again. There are still 25cm of snow on the ground and the temperature is below 1 degree Celsius. It will take a while for the snow to thaw even if this is the last fall, which is unlikely.

Source: Al Jazeera