The Vatican and Rome were covered with a blanket of snow of over 2 inches on the morning of February 26, 2018, a rare event since they typically experience mild Mediterranean winters. It was the biggest snowfall in six years and is due to a storm dubbed the “Beast from the East” that moved south and west from the Siberian Artic to all of Europe. The storm dumped 5 feet of snow in Croatia and brought dangerously low temperatures like minus 11 degrees Fahrenheit in some places. The storm is blamed on four deaths so far, and although it was not anything like a blizzard in Rome, it paralyzed the City for a while. Flights were cancelled, one airport closed, mass transit was stopped and the schools were closed. The army was called out to help clear the streets and Italy’s civil protection agency aided stranded commuters. The snow looked stunning and the people of Rome and the Vatican were given the unusual opportunity to ski, sled and build snowmen. Vatican priests and seminarians threw snowballs at each other in St. Peter’s Square. By noon the snow had melted, but freezing temperature overnight was expected to cause chaos again the next day due to the ice and slick cobblestone sidewalks and streets. While unusual, the U.N. weather agency says such late winter cold spells aren’t exceptional. Scientists say this storm is partly caused by the fact that strong winds which normally keep cold Arctic air locked up have weakened, releasing icy blasts across the northern hemisphere. Similar sudden drops in temperature have occurred in recent years in North America. Climate researchers say more frequent cold blasts could be expected as global warming saps more strength from the air currents around the pole.
Sources: thelocal.it, accuweather.com, vaticannews.va, usnews.com, dailysabah. com, qz.com, dailymail.co.uk