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‘Successful response to blizzard due to public awareness, cooperation’

By Khetam Malkawi - Feb 22,2015 - Last updated at Feb 22,2015

AMMAN — Authorities and partners managed to deal with the weekend blizzard successfully, minimising the impact of the storm on daily life and paving the way for institutional readiness for any weather emergencies in the future, officials said Sunday.

Officials interviewed by The Jordan Times said public awareness, cooperation and voluntary initiatives also helped mitigate the impact of the storm.

Learning from previous mistakes, they said, was an incentive to set plans to be followed, allowing for the continuation of daily life without disruption during snowstorms as is the case in countries where such weather prevails.

Both Amman Mayor Aqel Biltaji and Municipal Affairs Minister Walid Masri said that decentralisation in dealing with the storm ensured efficiency.

According to Masri, mayors around the Kingdom were given the authority to take any decision they deemed appropriate without referring to the ministry, as “they are more knowledgeable of the challenges in their areas.”

Biltaji agreed, noting that executives were dealing with the different areas in Amman on the ground. “We were there all the time but following what the executives are doing.”

The mayor added that the mistakes learnt from the storm that hit the Kingdom in December 2013, dubbed “Alexa”, helped authorities draw up plans prior to this winter’s two snowstorms — in January and this past weekend.

Biltaji said a meeting held by the National Centre for Security and Crisis Management after last month’s blizzard “set the tone on the governorate level for governors, the public security and civil defence departments, volunteers and the private sector”.

Thus, “this was a collective effort”.

Both officials also noted that public awareness helped in successfully managing the crisis.

“The positive energy prevailing in the city helped us, and everybody was in a positive mood… this was unprecedented, people were critical before we started… [but] they were supportive in thinking with us and volunteering,” Biltaji said.

The community’s involvement extended beyond Amman, as volunteers were almost everywhere, according to Masri.

“In each municipality I visited, there was a group of volunteers, opening roads and helping to rescue those who were in need of assistance,” the minister said.

Field management was also different this time, as bulldozers were assigned and distributed to certain areas without having to move them to others as in previous times, according to Masri.

In addition, tracking systems were used for bulldozers to ensure that they were working in the designated areas, Biltaji said.

The challenge now is to ensure that life goes on during such snowstorms in the future, Masri noted.

“We want to learn from other countries’ experiences, especially the use of salt brine on roads for anti-icing before a snowstorm,” he said, adding that a study will be conducted in the summer to check whether the salt has had any effect on groundwater.

Masri said there is no final figure yet on the cost of dealing with the weekend blizzard, but the bill for January’s storm was around JD2.5 million.

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