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Strong rain began falling throughout the country yesterday morning, and was accompanied by thunderstorms and strong winds. Forecasters predict today will bring more rain, thunderstorms and hail, as temperatures continue to drop. The forecast shows more snow in the northern mountains, which is expected to reach Jerusalem and the central hills by this afternoon. The precipitation will gradually dissipate in the evening.

According to Meteo-Tech, Ben-Gurion International Airport received the greatest amount of rainfall - 60 millimeters. By 7 P.M., 31 millimeters of rain had been recorded in north Tel Aviv, while the southern part of the city saw over 50 millimeters. Safed got 17 millimeters of rain by that hour, while 24 millimeters fell in Haifa, 31 in Zikhron Ya'akov and 10 in Jerusalem.

Snow began accumulating at Mount Hermon yesterday morning, and is expected to spread overnight throughout the northern Golan Heights and Galilee mountaintops, reaching the central mountains and Jerusalem by this afternoon.

According to meteorologist Nahum Malik, "there is a chance" the snow will even stick in Jerusalem. Temperatures tomorrow will not rise above 4 degrees, Malik said, before falling again to 1-2 degrees, and reaching zero in the evening.

Temperatures dropped yesterday afternoon to 5 degrees in Safed (a decrease of 6 degrees from the day before), 3 degrees in the northern Golan Heights, 11 in Haifa, and 12 in Tel Aviv.

In anticipation of the snowfall, Rebecca Sieff Hospital in Safed began preparing for the possibility of road closures. "There is constant communication with the Safed municipal emergency center, and the access road to the hospital is a top priority in terms of clearing snow," said the hospital's director Dr. Oscar Abmon. "We've increased our supply of crude oil for heating, as well as the supply of oxygen, medication, and food, in case the hospital becomes inaccessible."

The hospital is also outfitting emergency vehicles with snow chains, and the emergency room is girding to treat cases of hypothermia and frostbite.

The Haifa municipal emergency headquarters held a coordination meeting yesterday with the city's emergency services in order to prepare for the storm. The Water Department also has installed pumps that will operate in the event of flooding, and the municipality is preparing to remove debris, clear blocked streets, and evacuate residents.

In Jerusalem, ultra-Orthodox schools defined as recognized but unofficial, are threatening a closure due to the municipality's refusal to provide diesel for heating purposes. The municipality's attorney general has instructed the city not to provide the fuel, due to legal rulings prohibiting funding schools of such status. Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski asked Attorney General Menachem Mazuz yesterday to allow the city to provide the diesel. Lupolianski has instructed municipal teams to keep emergency routes open, and a special situation room has been formed to deal with frozen roads.

Fadi Eyadat adds:Two men lost their lives yesterday in road accidents and 14 others were injured. Poor visibility and slippery road surfaces apparently played a part but police said both fatalities were linked to the drivers' staying too close to the vehicles in front of them.

Near Kiryat Ata in the north, a 40-year-old resident of the town was killed and five others were injured in a five-vehicle crash at about 8 A.M. when a sedan rear-ended another car, and both were thrown into oncoming traffic.

Haim Halfon, Traffic Police chief of the coastal region, Haim Halfon, said the cause of the accident was insufficient distance between the two vehicles.

Kiryat Ata Mayor Yaakov Peretz said yesterday that "for the past six years we have demanded that the broadening of the road at the entrance of the town because of the amount of vehicles passing through here on their way to the northern towns. It is too bad that human lives are being lost because of financial concerns."

In another accident yesterday, Mohammed Hushan, 24, of Kfar Manda, was killed near the Zichron Yaakov overpass on the coastal highway. Five others were injured.

The crash took place about 2 P.M., when a commercial vehicle hit the rear of a truck, which then hit another vehicle. In this case, too, Halfon said, the cause of the accident was insufficient distance between the vehicles.