BEIRUT/SIDON: Work began Wednesday to clear the damage wrought by storm Norma, the gales of wind and torrents of rain and snow having peaked overnight and begun subsiding.
Across the country, the Public Works Ministry and local municipalities dispatched workers to clear roads of snow and debris that had collected after a night of heavy precipitation. The Dahr al-Baidar road connecting the coast to Bekaa remained blocked by heavy snow Wednesday morning, as did a host of other mountain roads.
Some roads will require more serious fixes where large rocks ripped apart asphalt; other roads collapsed entirely, including one between Ghaboun and Rashmaya in Aley.
The state-run National News Agency reported that in southern Nabatieth, snow had fallen overnight to altitudes as low as 600 meters, leading to many road closures, including in the Jabal Al Rihan region, known for its pine forests. In Akkar, in the north, snow fell at about 500 meters, and at 600 meters in Bsharri.
Rivers across the country breached their banks, including the Litani, the Ghadir and Nahr al-Kabir in the north.
The area arguably hit the worst by the storm was Akkar. Dozens of hectares of agricultural land on its lower coastal plains flooded as Nahr al-Kabir expanded throughout the night. Speaking with a local TV reporter, a local farmer said crops that had been planted had almost certainly all perished.
“If we are part of this country,” the farmer implored, “we ask the state to see this situation and help us.” The man said locals had woken up at night and had to flee their homes as floodwaters entered.
Antelias, in Metn, also experienced massive flooding of over a meter.
The Civil Defense reported having saved many people from cars stuck in the snow in 17 overnight operations. An unidentified number of people were rescued from three cars in an operation on the Hazarta-Twiti road in Bekaa at 4 a.m. In Kfar Zebian, the Civil Defense worked from 1-6 a.m. to free a family of four, including two children.
Rescue operations were also conducted from 1-4 a.m. on the Dahr al-Baidar road and in Falougha, in Baabda, the Civil Defense said in a statement.
Some people were not so fortunate, however. Local media reported that flooding had swept away a Syrian girl in northern Minyeh, who was later found dead.
As the storm continues abating, residents of Lebanon should beware of new potential dangers. Snow that has covered low-lying areas and refugee camps is set to melt and cause flooding. River water that burst its banks may likely be contaminated with sewage among other contaminants.
Bekaa Gov. Jamal Abou Jaoude released a statement urging the public to wash with detergent any items that had come in contact with river water, saying it likely was mixed with sewage and chemicals.
He also urged farmers not to plant on their lands before tests for contaminants could be carried out.
The storm was not all negative, though. As the weather clears, some Sidonian farmers are returning to their fields. “Today I’m picking some beans from this field that the storm prevented me from working in,” Mustafa Hasan told The Daily Star.
Ali Gharib went to inspect citrus orchards that had survived the storm. “Thank God, this is a good season. ... We will stop irrigation by pumps,” he told The Daily Star, adding that he hoped his crop would find buyers at the markets.
Shepherds took their sheep out to fields to bathe in warm sunlight after several days of overcast skies. Kinian, a Syrian Kurdish girl living with her family in a Sidon orchard, told The Daily Star that she had decided to take her small lamb out after it had been locked inside for four days because of the storm. “We are happy with the departure of the storm and the return of warmth,” she said.
And there were benefits beyond agriculture. The Internal Security Forces reported registering only 234 speeding violations Tuesday, down from about 1,000 on normal days. Additionally, those looking to ski in the next few days will be welcomed by great snow conditions in the country’s resorts - many of which are set to reopen after having closed during the storm.