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The region is based at Heraklion and is divided into four regional units (pre-Kallikratis prefectures).From west to east these are: Chania, Rethymno, Heraklion, and Lasithi.Snowfall is common on the mountains between November and May, but rare in the low-lying areas.While some mountain tops are snow-capped for most of the year, near the coast snow only stays on the ground for a few minutes or hours.The first two serve international routes, acting as the main gateways to the island for travellers.There is a long-standing plan to replace Heraklion airport with a completely new airport at Kastelli, where there is presently an air force base.However, a truly exceptional cold snap swept the island in February 2004, during which period the whole island was blanketed with snow.During the Cretan summer, average temperatures reach the high 20s-low 30s Celsius (mid 80s to mid 90s Fahrenheit), with maxima touching the upper 30s-mid 40s.
The atmosphere can be quite humid, depending on the proximity to the sea, while winter is fairly mild.
The economy began to change visibly during the 1970s as tourism gained in importance.
Although an emphasis remains on agriculture and stock breeding, because of the climate and terrain of the island, there has been a drop in manufacturing, and an observable expansion in its service industries (mainly tourism-related).
The south coast, including the Mesara Plain and Asterousia Mountains, falls in the North African climatic zone, and thus enjoys significantly more sunny days and high temperatures throughout the year.
There, date palms bear fruit, and swallows remain year-round rather than migrate to Africa.Crete forms a significant part of the economy and cultural heritage of Greece, while retaining its own local cultural traits (such as its own poetry and music).