Long-awaited snowfall dusts Istanbul amid weekend curfew

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After three days of almost incessant rainfall and occasional strong winds, Istanbul awoke to a surprise snowfall on a weekend that coincided with a curfew imposed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Jan. 16, for the first time this winter, a thin blanket of snow covered the city’s western parts of Beylikdüzü, Büyükçekmece and Çatalca first before heading to the more populated eastern and central parts, including higher ground on the city’s Asian side.

On Jan. 17, temperatures floated around 3 degrees below seasonal norms and hovered at minus 1 degree Celsius at their lowest, while winds of up to 25 kilometers per hour battered the city. The snowfall increased in intensity and puddles of snow formed on the roadsides and sidewalks in the city center.

Authorities have warned drivers about slippery, snowy roads and advised them to take the necessary precautions as snowfall and cold weather is expected to continue well into the late hours of Jan. 18.

“Snow thickness between 20 and 30 centimeter in the high parts of the Anatolian side and 10-20 cm in the interior has been measured. In the districts on the European side, the average snow thickness is between two and five centimeters,” said Murat Ongun, spokesperson of the Istanbul Municipality.

The municipality has stressed that it is on “alert” with 7,031 personnel and 1,351 vehicles to keep to the roads open.

“Nearly, 10,800 tons of salt has been used since Friday morning. We manage our work from the crisis desk from AKOM [Disaster Coordination Center],” said Salim Özmen, deputy director of the center, adding that retaining wall collapses occurred in some districts.

Heavy fog led to a shutdown of vessel traffic late on Jan. 17 in Turkey‘s Bosporus Strait, Turkish officials said.

Marine traffic in the Bosporus has been suspended as visibility is below a half-mile, the Istanbul Port Directorate of the Transport and Infrastructure Ministry said in a statement.

All vessel passages from two directions were suspended as of 10:15 p.m. local time (0715GMT).

Meanwhile, 1,323 homeless people have been taken into single rooms in hotels to be provided with food and hot drinks.

Despite the curfews under coronavirus measures, residents and children in many districts have been seen going out to play with the snow.

In Sultangazi district, children playing on the street were, however, asked to leave from parks by police teams.

It is forecast that all regions will be rainy except the west of Marmara, the coastal Aegean and the Mediterranean province of Antalya, according to the latest evaluations made by the General Directorate of Meteorology.

Meteorology experts have also warned of more heavy snowfall for southeastern Turkey in the cities of Diyarbakır, Batman, Siirt and Şırnak over the week.

In the Central Anatolian province of Sivas, access to 177 villages in the area has been cut off due to snowfall concentrated over the town center that has accumulated to around 40 centimeters.

Hurriyet Daily News

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