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Thalassa fury to abate, but temperatures to drop further.

Summary: Storm Thalassa forced the closure of several roads across the country Monday, and temperatures are expected to drop further Tuesday, bringing the dangers of ice and snow that will persist throughout the rest of the week.

SIDON/TRIPOLI, Lebanon: Storm Thalassa forced the closure of several roads across the country Monday, and temperatures are expected to drop further Tuesday, bringing the dangers of ice and snow that will persist throughout the rest of the week.

Health Minister Wael Abu Faour said nurseries in mountainous areas would remain closed Tuesday due to the anticipated drop in temperatures. Meanwhile, Education Minister Elias Bou Saab said he would give private and state schools the choice whether to open their doors Tuesday or remain closed, after schools were shut Monday on his order.

Bou Saab called on school directors to evaluate the weather conditions, safety of roads and availability of heating before allowing the school day to return to normal.

The result of the low air pressure and cold air masses colliding, storm Thalassa will begin to wane off the eastern basin of the Mediterranean from Wednesday, the Meteorological Department at Rafik Hariri International Airport announced in its weather forecast.

"Rainfall and snow will end tomorrow morning," a source at the department told The Daily Star.

"But tomorrow we will have an additional drop in temperatures. Ice will continue to form on mountain roads above 500 meters [altitude], therefore there is a danger of cars skidding, especially at night and during early morning hours."

Tuesday's weather will be partially cloudy with an additional decrease in temperatures leading to ice on mountain and inland roads. There is a possibility of some sporadic morning snowfall, especially in southern highlands that are above an altitude of 600 meters, the forecast read.

Temperatures Tuesday will range between 4 and 11 degrees Celsius along the coast and minus 4 and 3 in the mountains, minus 11 and minus 5 in the Cedars and minus 2 and 4 degrees in the Bekaa Valley.

An increase in temperatures will be recorded Wednesday, which will see slightly cloudy skies. However, the danger of ice on mountain and inland roads will persist as temperatures warm.

Temperatures along the coast Wednesday, will range between 5 and 11 degrees, minus 3 and 4 in the mountains, minus 12 and minus 1 in the Cedars and minus 2 and 4 in the Bekaa Valley.

The danger of ice on roads will persist until at least Friday, the source said. However, the altitude at which there will be a danger of ice will gradually increase throughout the week, the source added.

For the second day in a row, storm Thalassa blanketed the northern highlands with snow from an altitude of 500 meters.

The storm intensified Sunday night and snow began to fall at mid-altitudes, disrupting movement throughout the early hours.

A decrease in temperatures that reached minus 9 in the early hours of Monday was then recorded in areas above 1,400 meters.

Some areas saw up to 70 centimeters of snow, which exceeded 1 meter in height in Bqaa Kafra and the Cedars.

Many companies and schools in the country were shut due to the cold weather and many employees' inability to get to work.

Public Works and Transport Ministry and the Civil Defense snowplows managed to open the main roads from high points in Koura to the Cedars and toward Ehden. Nevertheless, layers of ice made driving treacherous for cars without special winter tires or chains. The Red Cross, Civil Defense and security forces say they were ready and prepared to respond to incidents.

Electrical cables near the Bsharri and Zghorta districts damaged by the storm were fixed quickly by the maintenance workers and Qadisha Electricity to keep the power supply in the area ongoing.

As in Bsharri and Ehden, the outskirts of Akkar, Dinnieh and Batroun saw snowfall reach low altitudes in places such as Bireh and Hrar. This disrupted traffic on all roads which were opened in the afternoon, as ice began to form and dense fog descended.

Storm Thalassa also affected the work of maritime traffic and fishermen at the Abdeh and Mina ports, as well as throughout the south due to the high waves and strong seas. Farmers also reported some greenhouses as well as trees being damaged along the coast in Akkar.

Tripoli also witnessed heavy rains and intermittent showers of hail throughout the night leading to floods in some streets.

Meanwhile, in the south, Thalassa forced people to stay home Monday, as cold kept many indoors.

Many residents of Sidon stayed in the warmth of their houses due to the low temperatures, and all schools followed Bou Saab's decision to remain closed.

The storm also led to power outages in the Ain al-Hilweh and Mieh Mieh Palestinian refugee camps.

A source at Electricite du Liban covering southern Lebanon said that the cuts resulted from main cables supplying power transformers in the camps setting alight. Fixing the damage might take two days, the source added.

South Lebanon's Jezzine also witnessed snowfall from an altitude of 800 meters. Roads that connect it to Nabatieh and Marjayoun through Kfar Houne were cleared, as were the routes connecting the area to the Chouf through Bater. The road connecting Jezzine to the West Bekaa, through Sarireh, remained open for cars with snow tires and chains.

Residents through Lebanon spent much of Monday supplying their houses with heaters and fuel for fires.

Hasan Abbas, head of the Union of Agriculture Workers, warned of the consequences that the cold weather would have on crops.

"So far we can't say that there is any harm done to crops in the south, but if the cold wave continues then it will naturally have an impact on citrus, bananas and greenhouses," Abbas warned.

He did, however, say that he was aware of some damage to crops in the north.

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Publication:The Daily Star (Beirut, Lebanon)
Geographic Code:7LEBA
Date:Jan 26, 2016
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