An intense hailstorm lashed Fez-Meknes in Morocco over the weekend, causing major damage to properties. The Ministry of Agriculture also reported that the storm affected about 9 100 ha (22 500 acres) of agricultural land in 27 rural communities.
Photos and videos shared on social media showed the extent of the damage as hailstones covered streets and roads. Car windows were smashed, birds killed, and agricultural land ravaged as the storm swept the region.
In a press release, the ministry said the hailstorm impacted most provinces in the region, with the exception of Taounate.
"The intensity of the storm in certain areas has caused damage to several crops and certain agriculture infrastructure," it said.
Regional delegations from the agricultural ministry, including the Regional Chamber of Agriculture of Fez-Meknes, visited the affected areas to examine the situation and determine the potential impacts on various crops.
The initial findings showed that 9 100 ha (22 500 acres) of agricultural land was impacted in the provinces of Meknes, Sefrou, Ifrane El Hajeb, Fez, Moulay Yacoub, Taza, and Boulemane.
"The damage that occurred following the storm concerning fruit trees, olive trees, vegetable, and cereal crops," it added. The ministry recorded 20 to 80 percent damage in farmers' fields, depending on the crop and the area.
Meanwhile, the damage is minimal in areas equipped with anti-hail nets or in zones with anti-hail generators.
Fez-Meknes has about 6 260 ha (15 500 acres) of land equipped with hail nets subsidized by the Agriculture Development Fund, as well as 68 anti-hail generators.
Much of the impacted crops will benefit from the multi-risk climatic crop insurance program that the ministry has put in force to support farmers. The ministry's representatives said they will mobilize service to ensure the monitoring of the storm's impacts and prepare a detailed report on the situation.
According to Mohammed Hanchane, climatologist and professor at Sidi Ben Abdellah University, the country experienced a heatwave, which overheated the surface of the ground.
On Friday, June 5, a cold front has moved in, causing the unstable air with the "phenomena of violent ancestry in hot and humid air levels."
"We can expect this situation when a thermal contrast takes place between a warm surface and cold air at altitude," he explained, adding that climatologists can predict hailstorms "a few days to a few hours before its occurrence, but it is difficult to estimate its intensity and its geographical extent."
Hanchane remarked that such events are recurring but with a rare frequency. The brutal storm in the region was not unprecedented, but the hail was a shock to residents, given the summer weather in the country.
Delayed rainfalls this winter also affected Morocco's agriculture season this year.
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