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    Rome Colosseum Damaged by Snow, Frost

    By By Jim Andrews, Accuweather.com senior meteorologist
    February 21, 2012, 1:17:19 AM EST

    Historical snow and cold in Rome have not only tried the patience of its residents but have also taken a toll on one of its architectural wonders, the Colosseum.

    The Colosseum had to shut its doors to tourists after bits of the massive structure crumbled and fell, CNN said on Wednesday.

    This was but one instance of adverse weather impact in Italy, which has suffered bitter cold and extreme snowfalls.

    The loosening of plaster masonry and stone was attributed to ice forming on the walls, according to government spokesman Cristiano Brughitta. In other words, it was a result of what is known as the "freeze-thaw cycle".

    Brughitta called the cold wave exceptional. "Maybe every 30 years it gets this cold, but it's very rare."

    Most nights this month have been subfreezing in the city, weather data accessed by AccuWeather.com show. Moreover, there have been two outbursts of snow that have left an accumulation of wet snow on parts of the Colosseum.

    The wet snow was subject to melting by day, then the water would find its way into the cracks or gaps in the structure. Nightly cold was then able to freeze some of this water, causing expansion, weakening and crumbling of some of the material.

    Normal low temperatures in Rome during midwinter are no lower than about 40 degrees. However, the average temperature for the first 15 days of February was more than 10 degrees below normal.

    There is a financial fallout from the closure, as the Colosseum normally draws about 7,000 visitors a day, each visitor paying the equivalent of about $15, CNN said.

    Elsewhere, the historic wall town of Urbino has been reeling under the collapsing weight of deep snow. Partial roof collapses hit convents of San Francesco and San Bernardino, according to CNN. A roof caving was also reported from a nearby church.

    Urbino is located in the Marche region of eastern Italy. Here, persistent cold and damp winds off the Adriatic Sea dumped literally feet of snow along eastern slopes of the Apennine Mountains during February's major snowstorms, AccuWeather.com meteorologists believe.

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