Middle East battered by storms

Monday 13th Dec 2010 by theWeather Club

In recent months the Middle East and eastern Mediterranean have been experiencing a lengthy drought and unseasonably high temperatures. But this weekend, all that changed.

Lebanon's coastline was hit by 10m waves, which had a devastating impact on the country's fishing fleet. The wind, with gusts as high as 100kmh, was strong enough to flip over four small planes at Beirut airport. Heavy rain turned to snow on higher ground, leaving drivers stranded on frozen mountain roads.

In Israel, a Moldovan freighter sank off the coast of Ashdod, but thankfully all 11 crew members were rescued. A Russian tourist who was swept out to sea was less fortunate.

Temperatures in Egypt plummeted below freezing, with high winds and lashing rain making the temperature feel even lower. These winds whipped up sandstorms and caused the closure of several Red Sea and Mediterranean ports, including the vital regional hub at Alexandria. The Suez Canal was also closed to shipping for a while.

Jordan was also hit by sandstorms, while in Damascus, Syria, a thick blanket of snow caused the city to grind to a halt.

The rain, wind and cold temperatures now dominating the region are a complete turnaround from the hot, dry weather that caused forest fires in Haifa, Israel last week, killing as many as 45 people. All around the region, drought afflicted populations had been praying for rain – they just maybe hadn't expected quite so much of it to come at once.