Snow Falls in Jerusalem, Cold Snap Set to Continue Across Country

Despite stormy weather, relatively little rain falling near Lake Kinneret, which is experiencing third-straight year of below-average rainfall.

Snow falls in Safed, January 26, 2016.
Gil Eliahu

Monday’s stormy weather is expected to continue Tuesday, with more snow predicted in Jerusalem and high-lying towns in central Israel.

The nationwide cold snap will also continue, as will rain in areas below 700 meters (2,300 feet). Low-lying areas are at risk of flooding.

Tuesday morning may bring light snow in the hills for a third straight day, along with rain in other places. The precipitation will die out Tuesday afternoon, but the unseasonably cold temperatures will continue until the end of the week.

But despite the stormy weather, very little rain is falling near Lake Kinneret, Israel’s main water source. As of 10 P.M. on Sunday, for instance, the Kinneret’s drainage basin had gotten only 10 to 20 millimeters of rain, compared to 38 millimeters in Jerusalem, 36mm in Kiryat Gat and 34mm in Sderot. The Water Authority expressed concern that this will be a third straight year of below-average rainfall for the Sea of Galilee.

On Monday, snow began falling in Jerusalem in the morning and accumulated in the city’s higher neighborhoods. Mount Hermon and the Gush Etzion settlement bloc also got snow, with 50 centimeters in the former by the morning.

Snow falls on the streets of Jerusalem, January 25, 2016.
Olivier Fitoussi

Conditions on both of the main Tel Aviv-Jerusalem highways – Route 1 and Route 443 – were being monitored by the police from the afternoon on, and Route 443 was closed to traffic last night. The police advised drivers to move up their trips to and from the capital to avoid being caught by the closure.

Closing roads before they become impassable is one lesson learned from the blizzard of 2013, when thousands of drivers were stranded on the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highways overnight due to heavy snow.

Police did close the Coastal Highway (Route 2) for a while between the Olga and Yannai interchanges, but not because of snow. Rather, they needed to clear away sand that had blown onto the highway.

In the Negev, Route 90 was closed in both directions between the Dead Sea hotels and the Ein Gedi junction due to flooding. In Kseifa, a car was swept into a river on Monday evening, but the driver escaped unharmed.

Most of the northern Golan Heights got comparatively little snow, but in areas where the roads weren’t plowed, they were impassable without an all-terrain vehicle. The Golan town of Majdal Shams, however, had received up to 20 centimeters of snow by Monday morning.

Schools in Majdal Shams were already closed for a Druze religious holiday. But elsewhere in the Golan, schools were open as usual, and the same was true in Safed and the Upper Galilee. In contrast, schools closed early, at 1 P.M., in Gush Etzion, Kiryat Arba and the Mateh Yehuda Regional Council.

In Jerusalem, schools were forced to cancel tree-planting ceremonies in honor of Tu Bishvat (Jewish Arbor Day) because of the snow.

The northern Negev saw heavy rains Monday, and several towns have already exceeded their average annual precipitation. Moshav Gilat, for example, has gotten 264 millimeters of rain so far this winter – 94 millimeters above its average for the last 10 years.

All over the country, temperatures were colder than usual. In Jerusalem and Safed, Monday’s high was 3 degrees Celsius. In the Golan Heights town of Katzrin, it was 5 degrees and in Be’er Sheva 9 degrees. In Tel Aviv and Haifa, meanwhile, it was 11 degrees.