Winter storm sweeps across the Levant

Sandstorm, rain, snow and frost – it now feels like winter in the Middle East.

Diyarbakir city during a sandstorm on January 19, 2018
Diyarbakir city, eastern Turkey, during a sandstorm on January 19, 2018 [Ilyas Akengin/ AFP]

A winter storm travelling through the eastern Mediterranean has brought a sandstorm, then rain and snow from Turkey across the Levant to Iran.

Visibility dropped dramatically on Friday in southeast Turkey, including over camps hosting refugees, as the sky turned yellow with sand.

Southeasterly winds on Thursday night gusted to over 70 kilometres per hour in Diyarbakir, bringing fine sand up from the deserts to the south. Sandstorms like this come ahead of cold fronts, and this one brought heavy rain with it. Gaziantep recorded 50mm in the 24 hours until dawn on Friday.

The system swept across Gaza, bringing crashing waves onto the shore, taking out a watchtower. Power cuts followed after winds downed trees and power lines in Israel. Gusts were reported as being over 120km/h in Tel Aviv. Fifteen centimetres of snow fell on Mount Hermon and the Judean Desert saw wadis and waterfalls spring into life, draining the torrents into the Dead Sea.

Friday in Iraq was a day of sandstorm from Basrah to the capital, Baghdad, and beyond to Tikrit. Throughout Kuwait, winds full of fine sand gusted to over 60km/h, sometimes 85 km/h. There was even a little rain.

The temperature in Syria’s capital, Damascus, fell to -0.2 degrees Celsius as the winds dropped on Saturday morning. It was a similar story in Baghdad. In northwest Iran, 10cm of snow sat on the ground in Zanjan.

The next winter storm looks like blowing in from the Mediterranean on Tuesday although it does not appear to be as strong.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies