Roads Blocked as Snow Blankets Jerusalem, Golan Heights

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A general view of Jerusalem's Old City, earlier today
A general view of Jerusalem's Old City, earlier todayCredit: ILAN ROSENBERG/ REUTERS

Snow began falling in Jerusalem Wednesday afternoon, as a winter storm battered Israel.

Snowfall has blocked parts of Route 1 within Jerusalem, the main road that connects Tel Aviv and the capital. 

Snow began falling overnight Tuesday in the Golan Heights, with additional snowfall on the high peaks of the Galilee near morning.

The regional councils of the area – Merom Hagalil, Upper Galilee, and Golan – cancelled schools due to ice accumulation on the roads. Schools were shuttered in Safed as well. 

Snow falling in Jerusalem for the first time in years, today. Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

Snowy weather left several roads in the area closed to traffic. The Nature and Parks Authority closed several nature reserves and hiking trails to visitors in the north and south of the country.

The Hermon site reported that in the lower part of the mountain, snow reached 12 inches of thickness and temperatures were as cold as -3 degrees Celsius, along with strong winds. The site added that heavy snowfall is expected until Friday.

Tel Aviv closed all of its shores to bathers due to stormy weather and fear of sewage backflow into the sea. 

Children playing in the snow in the Golan Heights, this morning.Credit: Ori Shemesh

Jerusalem spent several days preparing for the expected wintry weather and snow.

The city has opened its storm preparation center and city hall's snow headquarters will open on Tuesday night. The city has begun deploying snowplows and distributing salt for spreading on the roads in preparation for the snow.

The police, Magen David Adom ambulance service and other security and rescue organizations have announced they are carrying out special preparations in the leadup to the storm. Magen David Adom said it is preparing for the weather with additional staff, deploying four-wheel drives and special off–road vehicles across the country.

A woman walking in the snow in the Golan Heights, this morning.Credit: Ori Shemesh

The Israel Electric Corporation said that the company has expanded its phone response team at the customer service center and field teams have been reinforced to respond to any blackouts or service disruptions.

Local Jerusalem weather forecaster Boaz Nehemia of the Yerushamayim website says the snow will begin piling up starting on Wednesday evening – and could reach about 10 centimeters in height (4 inches) – especially in higher neighborhoods.

In Jerusalem, Citypass, the company that operates the light rail, announced that the trains in the city are suitable to travel in snowy conditions up to a height of five centimeters, and that in the event of heavier snow, trains will be stopped.

In Jerusalem, where most of the schools are already closed due to coronavirus restrictions, the city said special education classes will end early at 1 p.m. on Wednesday, while the schools that are now open in areas with low coronavirus infection rates will be open normally – at least for now.

A local council near Jerusalem, Mevaseret Tzion, also announced it was canceling school on Wednesday due to the snowfall.

The last big snowstorm in Jerusalem was in December 2013, which was one of the biggest in the city's recorded history, with snowfall of over 50 centimeters. The snow brought down tens of thousands of trees, many of which fell on electrical lines and caused power outages that lasted for days in large parts of the capital. As a result, the Israel Electric Corporation has conducted a number of projects to bury electrical cables in the ground to prevent such outages again.

Many locales in the north are also preparing for snow over the next few days, including in places where it is not expected to snow – but authorities are still preparing for the worst. Haifa issued a warning on Monday that the stormy weather is expected to cause flooding, downed trees and nonfunctioning traffic lights, along with the collapse of retaining walls and damage along the beaches.

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