The 2013 Middle East cold snap refers to the winter storm that hit the Middle East region in December 2013, affecting Jordan,Turkey, Cyprus, Syria,Lebanon, Israel, the Palestinian territories, and Egypt. The storm has been called Alexa by various media outlets and has caused mayhem to millions of poor and displaced people across the region especially to the refugees of the Syrian conflict.
Events by country
By December 14, Alexa had covered the island’s Troodos mountain range with snow. Snowing had begun several days earlier, with snow reaching a peak thickness of 70 cm in Troodos.As well as 400 power cuts, Alexa resulted in several villages, including Armenohori, Farmakas, Kampi and Sina Oros, losing access to electricity for extended periods of time.
Egypt’s capital Cairo witnessed rare snowfall (mostly graupel) on Friday December 13 that the local media claimed to be the first in 112 years and night temperature is expected to drop as low as 2 °C (36 °F).
Jerusalem was paralysed by its fiercest snowstorm in years, with its mayor calling out the army to help stranded motorists and authorities urging residents to stay indoors. Netanyahu called it a “once-in-a-century” storm.
Roads were closed in Israel by deep snow and flooding. Thick clouds prompted Ben-Gurion International Airport to shut down, forcing US Secretary of State John Kerry to cut short his meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah to return to Israel before roads and airports were out of service. Jerusalem was cut off for 48 hours by deep snow and flooding and cars abandoned after they got stuck in snow.
After a day of lesser snow, a heavy snowstorm on 13 December 2013 deposited 40–60 cm (16–24 in) of snow in Jerusalem and between 60 and 100 cm (24 and 39 in) in the Golan Heights, and 1 m (3 ft 3 in) in the Kefar Etzion area. Snow fell in Haifa for the first time in 22 years. In warmer parts of Israel very heavy rain fell and caused flooding. The railway into Jerusalem ran although it was Sabbath for people stranded by blocked roads.
In Jordan, Ghazi Sarhan, spokesman for Jordan’s Administration of Syrian Refugee Camps, announced on December 13, that “During the past 48 hours 10,000 blankets and 1,500 heaters have been distributed to refugees.” Deep snow fell in Amman, where King Abdullah II of Jordan helped to push a car that had got stuck in snow.
It was reported that Lebanese Army was called in to help distribute emergency aid to Syrian refugees, as the UN handed out fuel, blankets, heaters and food rations yesterday amid a third day of severe winter weather in the region.
According to Abou Faour’s announcement, published in Al Nahar newspaper on December 12, “There are 1,600 refugee [makeshift camps] in addition to 431 random camps, which makes it difficult to reach these places. That is why the cabinet had to ask for the help of the army to make as much aid reach those refugees as possible”.
Snow in Nablus and Hebron ranged from 60–145 cm, and in Bethlehem 20–55 cm. The scene in Manger Square, the square adjacent to the Church of Nativity was that of a white Christmas with the square fully decorated and covered with a deep coat of snow.
The Gaza Strip was lashed by torrential rain for a third day, and its Hamas rulers said that residents had been evacuated from 60 flooded homes since storms hit the coastal territory on December 11.
The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) issued plans to airlift 40 tonnes of food for 50,000-60,000 people into the northeastern province of Hasakha from Iraq. The UN airlift of urgently needed food for tens of thousands of people in northeastern Syria, originally planned for December 12, was however delayed by snow.
According to Matthew Hollingworth, Syria Country Director for the United Nation’s World Food Programme, most internally displaced Syrians fled their homes with few belongings so they do not even have enough warm clothes or blankets to fend off the freezing weather. They desperately need fuel for heating and to cook the food they receive as humanitarian assistance.” Reportedly, a child and a baby died from the cold on December 12, and an activist in a besieged rebel-held town of Hara said residents were struggling to stay warm with the electricity cut off and no food or fuel allowed in.
In southern Syria, the Golan Heights were covered with snow up to at least 100 cm deep.
Beginning December 11, a strong ridge in the jet stream caused a big anticyclone over Europe; its east edge drew a strong current of cold air south from the Arctic. This polar outbreak overspread Turkey and the Eastern Mediterranean region, pushing below moist air associated with a passing front, causing heavy snow and sleet over higher elevations in Syria, Lebanon, andIsrael. At lower elevations, heavy rain from the system caused flooding in some areas.
(The west edge of the same anticyclone drew in a warm southwest wind from around the Azores to Britain.)
- Rare storm leaves Jerusalem snowed in (bigstory.ap.org)
- A Rare Winter Storm Hits The Middle East, Blanketing Desert in Snow (laughingsquid.com)
- King of Jordan helps family push car which had become stuck in freak snow storm (dailymail.co.uk)
- Middle East under snow – in pictures – #WorldNews (execdaily.wordpress.com)
- Winter Storm ‘Alexa’ Chills Middle East (sott.net)
- Egypt sees snow for the first time in 112 years (aroundthe-world.info)
- The Middle Eastern snowstorm, viewed from space (washingtonpost.com)
- King Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein of Jordan helps family push car stuck in snow storm (dailymail.co.uk)
- Middle East under snow – in pictures (theguardian.com)
- Snow in the Middle East – in pictures (theguardian.com)