As Winter Finally Hits, Northern Israel Braces for Storms

Air traffic is impeded; Flooding is expected in the south and snow at higher elevations.

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Brace for rain and snow today, depending where in Israel you are. The authorities for their part have been doing more than breaking out their galoshes: Preparations have been made for the storm weather that began Tuesday night. Flooding is expected in the south of the country, officials warn.

Wednesday will be rainy and stormy, with thunderstorms from the north of the country to the north of the Negev, according to the Meteotech forecast. Not only will be be cold, after record-breaking heat in November: winds will be strong, the weathermen warn.

There is some probability of a sandstorm in the Negev.

Mount Hermon and other peaks in Israel's north are seeing snow, which began falling on Tuesday afternoon. On the mountaintops, the temperature is sub-zero.

On Thursday and Friday sporadic snow is expected in the Galilee and at high elevations in central Israel.

There is also a chance of snow in Jerusalem on Thursday morning.

The wintry weather is expected to continue until Saturday, when the rain is expected to subside.

The maximum temperature in Jerusalem today is 11, in Tel Aviv and Haifa – 17, in Katzin – 12, in Be’er Sheva – 17, and in Eilat – 20.

The Airport Authority announced that air traffic to and from Israel is expected to slow down. This is due to a decision to perform all of the takeoffs and landings from one runway, on account of the strong winds. The Authority said that air traffic instructions have been delivered to the air companies and steps have been coordinated with Eurocontrol (the European organization for air safety), in order to improve flexibility in flights arriving from Europe.

Courtesy of Israel Meteorological Service (Disruptions likely due to high traffic on IMS)

Golan snow staff convenes

In anticipation of the snowstorm expected last night on the northern mountaintops, the Golan Heights local council announced it was making the necessary preparations. Yesterday the Golan snow staff convened in Katzrin to coordinate steps between the Israel Defense Forces, the National Road Company, Israel Police and firefighters.

Officials at the Golan local council said they were happily expecting a large amount of snow and rain, which would fill the water reservoirs and attract many tourists. “At Marom Golan our snow plow is ready for action, and we have staff on duty to assist stuck vehicles, if needed,” said Shefi Mor, tourism manager at kibbutz Marom Golan in the northern Golan Heights,.

Don't think the weather is deterring the locals. Meir Levyc Chairman of the tourist forum in the Upper Galilee and manager of the resort village in Kibbutz Gonen, said that as soon as the forecast was released we began receiving reservations for rooms and the hotels. There are ‘storm lovers’ who awant to feel the power of nature.”

Israel bracing for foul weather

Sharon Zvi, 69, from Rishon Letzion arrived in the north yesterday morning. “I love a stormy winter. I come to the Upper Galilee and the Golan especially to see the streams overflowing, the waterfalls filling with water and the mountains growing white with snow,” he said. “I go up Mount Bental in the Golan Heights, take a seat in the café on the top and watch the storm.” he said.

Preparing in Safed and Jerusalem

The Safed municipality announced that beginning this morning, emergency teams would be on duty and a staff would be prepared to locate frozen areas on the roads and disperse salt along those routes. The municipality noted its hotline would be manned with additional staff and if the snow piles up on the roads, it would be removed by snow plows with the help of the army and the National Roads Company. In addition, Safed is preparing to supply the needy and elderly with heating appliances, blankets and additional equipment.

The emergency room of Sieff Hospital in Safed said they were preparing to take in patients suffering from frostbite and hypothermia. They call on tourists coming at the height of the storm to make sure to wear proper equipment and warm clothes.

The Jerusalem municipality and emergency organizations in the capital completed the preparations for the storm yesterday, despite the fact that the forecast is only predicting light snowfall in the city. In case of snow, a joint headquarters will be set up to overlook clearing of major roads and roads leading to the hospitals. In the meantime, snow chains to be attached to the tires of fire trucks and ambulances have been inspected to make sure they operate properly. Fire truck drivers have received instructions for driving in extreme weather and a staff of the firefighter unit for special rescue operations has been placed on duty.

Boaz Nehemia, the director of the Yershamayim forecast site, , a meteorologist renowned in the capital for his accurate predictions, estimates that Jerusalem will see between 50 and 100 millimeters of precipitation by the weekend. He says that the “snow window” will open at noon today, but it is much more likely that the snow will fall and pile up to a height of a few centimeters between Thursday night and Friday noon.

In the south preparations have also begun for the wintry weather. On Sunday, the Eilat district police held an evaluation session with emergency and rescue organizations, the municipality and others. The yearly precipitation in the area is among the lowest in the country, but the district lies at the bottom of a topographic “saddle” between Jordan and Egypt, meaning that rain water from these countries flows in the direction of Eilat and the Hevel Eilot region.

The local government center said that the enormous power of the floods and the abruptness with which they arrive are a real danger, and can even be fatal. The public has thus been instructed on how to behave in case of flooding. Residents are urged to remain home, locate a high place and avoid the ponds of water created by the flooding.

Contributing reporters: Eli Ashkenazi, Zafrir Rinat, Nir Hason, Shirly Seidler and Zohar Blumenkrantz

Dor beach, December 11, 2013.Credit: Vered Eyal

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