Friday, September 5, 2008

Freak Snow Storm in Africa

Editor's Note: I am following this storm because I sense there is a bigger story here than what is being presented by the Press. Of course we understand it is a significant event in terms of global climate change. But what does it mean really? I will find out and follow up with you soon. Read more here.

NAIROBI (Reuters) - A huge hailstorm turned parts of central Kenya white, thrilling residents most of whom had never experienced such conditions, officials said on Wednesday.

Hailstorms are usual in some parts of Kenya, which straddles the equator, but the ferocity of the storm in Busara, 255 km (158 miles) northwest of the capital was unprecedented.

Excited villagers pelted each other with snowballs while some ate pieces of the icy sheet that formed over an entire hillside.

"We thought a big white sheet had been spread, so we decided to come and see for ourselves. We thought that it was Jesus who had come back," one villager told reporters.

Kenya's Meteorological Department said Tuesday's storm was caused by the convergence of cold air currents from the Indian Ocean and warm air currents from the Congo.

"The hailstones falling on the ground joined together to form expansive sheets of ice or snow flakes occupying a large area, 30 acres," a statement by the meteorologists said.

More than 12 hours after the storm, the forested hillside was still white despite the hot tropical sun.

"In fact this thing is very sweet, we have never seen anything like this. We like the ice so much because with the sun being hot, you take it and you feel satisfied," resident Simon Kimani said.

The only snow to be seen in normally sunny Kenya is on top of the country's highest mountain, 5,199-metre (17,057 ft) Mount Kenya. SEE VIDEO HERE

(Reporting by Njuwa Maina and Patrick Muiruri; writing by Wangui Kanina; editing by Tony Austin)