Mount Hermon - Yaron Kaminsky
Snow fell on Mount Hermon in the first day of a predicted three-day onslaught, March 9, 2011. Photo by Yaron Kaminsky
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Malfunctioning traffic lights and accidents in Tuesday morning's stormy weather slowed traffic to a crawl in parts of greater Tel Aviv. Traffic was backed up even on the new fast lane into Tel Aviv, leading the operators to close the road for 20 minutes to all but public transportation. A few dozen drivers took the fast lane despite the restriction, and the operators are considering fining them up to NIS 200.

Before the closure of the fast lane, the toll, which fluctuates according to usage, shot up to a record NIS 38 and remained there for about 30 minutes.

Despite the high cost, the demand for the fast lane did not slow, due to the heavy traffic on the parallel Jerusalem-Tel Aviv Highway.

Some 5,600 cars used the fast lane on Tuesday between 6 A.M. and 11 A.M., similar to the figure on other days.

According to data from the fast lane's management, the trip from the Ben-Gurion interchange to the Kibbutz Galuyot interchange took as much as two hours on Tuesday morning, while the trip in the fast lane took only 15 minutes on average.

Rudi Almog, head of the fast lane's toll system, said he was surprised that more drivers did not leave their cars in the parking lot and take the free shuttle into Tel Aviv and Ramat Gan and concluded that "the rain had scared people." He said 400 drivers took advantage of the shuttle on Tuesday, as opposed to 500 on an ordinary day.

The storm is expected to affect most of the country Wednesday and Thursday, and could bring snow for the first time this season to the central mountains. However, no accumulation of snow on the ground is expected in Jerusalem.

Tuesday morning's blowy rain in the greater Tel Aviv area was the first sign of the brewing storm. According to the Meteo-Tech weather service, 20 to 30 millimeters of rain fell on Tuesday between Rishon Letzion and Ben-Gurion International Airport. The Water Authority's Hydrological Service reported that 54 millimeters had fallen in the area of the Hiriya landfill, while less than 15 millimeters had fallen in the Lake Kinneret area.

According to Meteo-Tech, winds of 50 to 70 kilometers per hour are expected on Wednesday , and the rain will spread to the south, which may see some flooding. Colder air this afternoon will increase snowfall on Mount Hermon and snow on peaks over 700 meters. Snow might also fall in the central mountains, but is not expected to stick and accumulate in Jerusalem.

The stormy weather will continue into Thursday with more snow on the way on Mount Hermon and elsewhere in the north. The Water Authority expects significant rainfall to swell streams. However, the water will be unable to penetrate the already soaked ground and will therefore flow overland to the Kinneret.

On Friday and Saturday, the stormy weather will wane.