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Cold front hits central and southern Italy

The past weekend was characterized by a cold front from the Balkans that brought snow to central and southern Italy and wind to the north of the peninsula. 

The cold front caused a sudden drop in temperatures especially in Puglia, Basilicata, Campania, Calabria and Sicily already on Friday evening (February 22nd 2019).  

It snowed at a low altitude in Puglia and Basilicata as well as on the mountains in Marche and Abruzzo with exceptional snowfalls between Catania and Siracusa (Sicily). Heavy damage was caused by the strong winds nearing 100 km/h.

The strong wind from the Balkans took the roofs off of many facilities in Sicily between Vittoria, Ispica and Scoglitti (Ragusa province) and between Portopalo and Pachino (Siracusa province).

Although warnings had been issued, a few facilities did not withstand the force of the wind.

On his blog, agronomist Corrado Vigo reports that "Saturday was characterized by rain, snow and violent hailstorms especially in south-eastern Sicily. The hilly areas around Mount Etna were covered in snow, which is unusual this time of year. Almond trees were already blossoming due to the warm temperatures of the past few days. Various orange and lemon groves have been damaged so now we need to be careful about mal secco."

Some crops went from 16°C during the day to below zero during the night: this shock could compromise those trees, such as stone fruit trees, that were blossoming.

Puglia stone fruit producer Nicola Bollino, who a few days ago talked about delayed blossoming and the possibility of losing the early crops if temperatures dropped to -2 °C, reported: "we feared for the worst but, in this case, the delay in blossoming helped us. Luckily temperatures did not drop below 1°C, so nothing was compromised. We could have lost everything." 

Another producer from Puglia reports that frost did cause some damage, but "we will be able to make a assessment only in a few days' time."

Strong winds persisted on Sunday 24th February on Tuscany, Umbria, Lazio, Abruzzo, Molise, Campania, Puglia, Basilicata, Calabria and Sicily with possibility of sea storms along the coast.

According to Confagricoltura, the sudden changes in temperature and strong winds have heavily damaged greenhouses and warehouses in Basilicata, so producers are worried about stone fruit and strawberries. Carmela Suriano, Ceo of Club Candonga, reported that the bad weather lasted so little it did not affect strawberry crops.

In Calabria, the strong winds took the roof off warehouses and destroyed crops in the Cosenza, Crotone and Catanzaro provinces, but two producers reported that the situation is under control. reported that rail traffic between Sicily and Calabria was interrupted due to a fire on Saturday evening near the tracks in the Consenza province, but things went back to normal on Sunday.

As for Monday 25th February, further rain and snowfalls are expected in some areas in southern Italy.

Authors: Maria Luigia Brusco and Vincenzo Iannuzziello

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