NAIROBI (Reuters) - For tourists, Kenya conjures up images of sun-drenched beaches, lazing lions, and sunsets on the savannah, but this week children in the highlands were delighted by a rare visitor to the equatorial country: hail.
The heavy ice storms sheathed roads and homes in white, leading many newspapers to mistakenly declare there had been a snowstorm.
"Once the hail stopped, people went outside to play with it, excited at the sight outside, and roads were closed," said elder James Mburu Ngethe, who lives in the central Kenyan village of Limunga.
But farmers were less thrilled after precious crops were ruined by the sudden swathes of ice.
"People were expecting rainfall, but not this. It has destroyed crops and fodder for livestock, and for anyone with a defective roof, it went through it," said Ngethe.
After many Kenyans posted pictures and videos on social media saying it had snowed, the weather office moved quickly to dampen their excitement.
"The phenomena observed... was not snow as alleged by many Kenyans, it was actually a hail storm," Peter Ambenje, chief executive officer of the Kenya Meteorological Department said in a statement on Wednesday.
"When the initial hailstones hit the ground, they cool it. Hence subsequent hailstones accumulate on the ground forming heaps or sheets depending on the size of the hailstones."
The only snow normally seen in Kenya is on top of the country's highest mountain, 5,199-metre (17,057 ft) Mount Kenya. But in 2008 and 2010 similar hailstorms also hit central parts of the country.
Writing by Katharine Houreld; Editing by Gareth Jones