Sudden hailstorm carpets central Malta
Midday downpour was as white as snow but hard as rocks
Parts of Malta’s landscape yesterday looked like something out of a Christmas postcard as an accumulation of hail blanketed the roads and fields.
Excited children donned their boots and gloves and gleefully rushed outdoors to play and snap photos in the snow-like surroundings. Some schools took a break to allow pupils to experience the unusual moment.
But not all was white and cheerful. The brief but violent hailstorm which hit Malta dented cars, damaged solar water heaters, shattered window panes and caused traffic to grind to a halt.
Despite the suddenness of the hailstorm taking many by surprise, the stormy weather conditions had been forecast, the Met Office said.
“The hail was violent but we had been expecting heavy downpours since Sunday. Thundery clouds bring about the possibility of hail,” a spokesman said.
The worst affected area was central Malta, especially the localities of Mġarr, Naxxar, Mosta, Għargħur and Burmarrad.
Readers reported hailstones “the size of golf balls” pummelling their homes, shattering window panes and mirrors. A convertible car even had its canvas roof pockmarked with the hailstones.
One reader reported removing six big buckets of water from her house, as the hail, which reached a foot in depth, blocked her yard door, forcing her to exit through the window.
Another said: “These hailstones have turned my skylight into Swiss cheese.”
Others reported pigeons being killed and the discomfort of being pelted by hailstones, while some were vocal about their dented cars.
Farmers saw their tents damaged and their harvested produce gone to waste.
“We still have to survey the full extent of our losses but our potato crop has suffered considerable damage,” agricultural scientist Charles Zahra told The Times.
“Lettuce and unprotected strawberries may have also been wiped out. Crops of young cauliflowers were severely damaged; that will negatively affect the harvest of two months’ time.
“The tents at the farmers’ market at Ta’ Qali were also ripped and broken. The hailstorm destroyed everything like a lawnmower.
“In Malta, we have no insurance system for weather-damaged crops.”
The Civil Protection Department assisted as heavy traffic built up in Burmarrad and Mġarr, a result of the hail blanketing the roads.
Members of the CPD shovelled hail from in front of San Anton School in Mselliet and helped drivers trapped in the sudden rush of rainwater in Rabat.
According to the Met Office, a trough of low pressure from the Gulf of Genoa to the central Mediterranean is slowly moving north-eastwards.
Thundery showers are expected today and throughout the next two days, with the possibility of more hail.