Malta has woken up to light snow and hail for the first time in years as health chiefs warned of a new flu outbreak.
A thin blanket of the white stuff surprised hundreds of social media users, who rushed to share photos of the wintry scenes across Malta and Gozo on Saturday morning.
89.7 Bay listener Gertrude Borg Marks took a series of pictures of her street in St Julian’s looking like a winter wonderland.
89.7 Bay listeners reported soft hail in St Paul’s Bay, San Gwann, St Julian’s, Valletta, Kirkop, Mosta, Naxxar, Rabat, Qormi, Attard, Lija, Balzan, Mgarr, Victoria, Nadur, Qala and Xaghra after temperatures plunged below 5°C overnight.
Andrea Muscat from Maltese Islands Weather confirmed that Gharb in Gozo was colder than in the capital of Iceland for the third night in a row.
A blast of cold air from Siberia has been blamed for the unusually chilly weather.
He explained: ‘This winter’s coldest days are here. An intense low pressure system over the eastern Mediterranean will be drawing in frigid air from Siberia.
‘This frigid air will impact large parts of Europe. The Maltese Islands will be affected by this as well.
‘A strong Northwest wind will ensure that real-feels be much lower than the actual temperature.’
He added: ‘Ground frost may form across across the central parts of the Maltese Islands.’
Rain are strong winds are also expected.
The coldest January day ever recorded in Malta was back in 1981 when temperatures plunged to an astonishing 1.4°C. However, no snow was officially recorded, only hail.
What is the difference between hail, sleet and snow?
All forms of precipitation start as snow high up in the clouds, according to the Met Office.
But the precipitation only stays as snow when the atmosphere is cold all the way from the clouds to the ground.
What is hail?
Hail occurs during severe weather such as thunderstorms when dust or particles in the air collide with cold water.
An ice pellet is formed as the water freezes around the object.
And when the pellet becomes heavy enough it falls to the ground.
Hail stones are anything from five mm or more in diameter but in severe storms can measure the size of a golf ball or even bigger.
What is sleet?
Sleet is a mixture of rain and snow and is a kind of winter precipitation.
During wintry weather, snowflakes can go through a warmer layer and begin to melt as they fall towards the ground.
Ice pellets in sleet are much smaller than hail pellets.
Maltese health chiefs issue flu alert
The cold snap and biting winds have sparked fears of a flu outbreak in Malta.
Maltese health officials said they were expecting a huge rise in cases over the next week, while hospitals are preparing for an increase in admissions as patients fall ill with flu-related complications.
What are the symptoms of flu?
Flu can cause a sore throat, coughing and a raised temperature.
It usually takes between one and three days for flu symptoms to develop after catching the virus.
In most cases people feel better after a week.
The main symptoms include a fever, a chesty cough, headache, tiredness and aching muscles as well as a sore throat, runny nose and sneezing.
Some people can also experience nausea and vomiting, diarrhoea or joint and limb pain.
How can I treat influenza at home?
As influenza is viral, you need to wait for the symptoms to pass, but there are some things you can do to make yourself more comfortable.
It’s best to get as much rest as possible to allow your body to recuperate.
You should also keep warm and drink plenty of water to avoid getting dehydrated.
Taking paracetamol or ibuprofen can help to lower your temperature and treat aches and pains.
If you’re pregnant, over 65, have a long-term medical condition or weakened immune system you should consider visiting a GP if you are struck down by the flu.