Peru’s southern Andean freeze continues

Extreme cold temperatures have plummeted down to −26.5°C, or −16°F and strong ice-cold winds are blowing across Peru’s highland region of Puno, said meteorologist Hernán Saavedra, regional Director of the country’s National Meteorology and Hydrology Institute, or Senamhi.

The higher zones, including Capaso, Masocruz and Punta Perdida, have been hit by extreme weather, with temperatures averaging at −26.5°C, or −16°F, since the start of winter last June, Saavedra told state news agency Andina.

Peru President Alan Garcia enacted a legislative decree June 19 to declare a 60-day state of emergency in 11 of Peru’s 24 departments as temperatures in the Andes region continue to drop dramatically and claim the lives of residents.

More than 60 children have died since April 13, and, according to Peru’s Health Ministry, more than 50,000 suffer from acute respiratory tract infections and 4,851 from pneumonia.

In the city of Puno, the department’s capital, as well as in towns located near Lake Titicaca, temperatures have dropped below freezing point. And in northern towns, such as Azángaro, Huancané and San Antonio de Putina, minimum temperatures oscillate between −14°C and −16°C, or 7° F and 3° F.

But, according to Saavedra, the temperatures still remain within normal limits and a sudden or abrupt drop in temperatures, as was predicted a few weeks ago, has yet to be registered by the meteorology institute.

Strong bursts of icy wind blowing at 30 kilometers, or near 19 miles per hour, are also sweeping Peru’s mountains and should continue to do so with greater intensity and frequency in August.

“This is an anomaly,” said Saavedra. “Winds don’t usually come sporadically and for such short periods of time. Yesterday there was a burst of wind in Yunguyo.”

Saavedra also mentioned the high probability of snowstorms in Puno’s highest zones, such as San Antonio de Putina, La Rinconada, Carabaya, and Macusani.

“This situation is very probable because the relative humidity in that zone is increasing,” said Saavedra. “The air is saturated by up to 70 percent of humidity.”

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