Jordan snow brings country to a halt but could ease drought

The snow delayed flights, closed roads and downed power lines in and around Amman

Amman woke on Thursday to a rare blanket of overnight snow that kept people in their homes and blocked roads.

But authorities said it could also help replenish water reserves and ease pressure on severely depleted groundwater in the parched country.

Jordan has suffered prolonged bouts of drought during the past decade. Illegal digging for water for farming has depleted some underground water reservoirs and at least one dam ran dry last year.

The snow and rain should help replenish dams across the mostly desert kingdom, Hatem Al Zubi, deputy director of the National Security and Crisis Centre, said.

They include the 8 million cubic metre Wala Dam south of the capital Amman, which had emptied completely of water, he said.

“We expect it to become full during this wave. It has 2 million cubic metres to go,” Mr Al Zubi told official television.

With ample dam water, farmers will need to rely less on pumped-out groundwater.

Crews in Amman were working to fix downed electricity lines and clear main roads. The municipality described some roads as “driveable with the utmost caution”.

Electricity in Jordan is carried on poles, not through underground cables.

Youssef Al Shawarbeh, a municipal official, said trapped vehicles and falling trees hampered efforts to clear the snow and repair the lines.

“The main roads to reach vital facilities in Amman are open and some are open with caution,” he told official television.

The Meteorological Department said the weather on Thursday was “rainy and cloudy in most areas” with a high of 6°C in Amman and a low of 1°C. It expected temperatures to rise steadily in the next few days to reach 11°C on Sunday.

Queen Alia Airport, the kingdom's main airport south of Amman, announced that eight flights on Thursday were being delayed to allow passengers more time to reach the airport due to difficulties.

The cold weather may come as a worry to householders, as electricity bills are scheduled to rise in April when the authorities will remove power subsidies for middle-class households.

The kingdom’s economy has deteriorated sharply in the past two years and unemployment is at an official record high of 24 per cent.

At the Gaza refugee camp north of Amman, Nisreen and her six children huddled around a kerosene heater on Thursday.

“It snowed lightly and melted quickly, but we're sinking from water from the zinc roof,” she said, referring to the corrugated roof of her home.

Large sections of the camp are neglected and many of its 29,000 residents do not have Jordanian citizenship, unlike most of the millions of people of Palestinian origin in Jordan.

about 600,000 Syrian refugees also live in the kingdom of 10.7 million. Around a fifth of the Syrian refugees live in the Zaatari and Azraq camps in the deserts of north Jordan and are under movement restrictions.

A spokesman for the UN refugee agency said residents had enough blankets and other means to cope with the weather and denied social media reports that a child died from the cold in Zaatari earlier this month.

Snow blankets the Middle East - in pictures

Updated: January 28, 2022, 10:26 AM