Snowstorm Alexa Starts Lashing Lebanon amid Heightened Precautions

A snowstorm coming from Russia started lashing Lebanon on Tuesday evening amid heightened precautions by citizens and authorities.

The winter weather front dubbed "Alexa" is forecast to bring several days of rain and snow and a steep drop in temperature.

As the falling snow cut off the Oyoun al-Siman-Hadath Baalbek road and the Tarshish-Zahle road, the Dahr al-Baidar road remained passable for vehicles equipped with snow chains.

The Meteorology Department of the Lebanese Civil Aviation Authority said heavy rains are expected to fall on Wednesday, noting that snow will hit areas situated 1,000 meters above sea level during the day and will start lashing regions that are 500 meters above sea level in the evening, especially in the North, before abating at night.

Meanwhile, as part of the authorities' measures, caretaker Education Minister Hassan Diab ordered the closure of public and private schools across the country on Wednesday.

For his part, caretaker Health Minister Ali Hasan Khalil asked all nurseries to close on Wednesday as a public safety precaution.

LBCI television quoted Lebanese University President Adnan Sayyed Hussein as saying that classes will not be interrupted on Wednesday at all faculties because of the storm.

Quoting the Civil Aviation Authority, MTV said flight activities at the Beirut Rafik Hariri International Airport continue uninterrupted and “any change in the schedule of takeoffs and landings will be announced in a statement.”

The vehicles of the Public Works and Transport Ministry are working around the clock and all stations are on full alert, according to MTV.

On Monday, caretaker Social Affairs Minister Wael Abu Faour said authorities were mobilizing to help Syrian refugees living in makeshift camps ahead of the storm.

"The ministry, in cooperation with UNHCR and all our partners, has mobilized to do what's necessary to protect Syrian refugees and Lebanese citizens in need during this storm," Abu Faour said.

"I don't think there is a single Lebanese official who can sleep with a clear conscience while women, children and the elderly -- Syrians, Palestinians or Lebanese -- can't close their eyes because of cold and hunger," he added.

Abu Faour said Lebanese authorities, working with the army and international aid agencies, had begun distributing plastic sheeting and wood planks to refugees living in informal camps, along with heaters and food aid.

At least 835,000 registered Syrian refugees are living in Lebanon, some renting apartments, others living with Lebanese families and thousands sheltering in makeshift shelters in unofficial camps.

The vast majority of the camps are in the Bekaa Valley region in east Lebanon, where temperatures regularly dip below zero and winter brings snow and rain.

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