Winter Storm Elpis Heads to Israel, After Battering Greece, Turkey

Elpis, which will bring 'a significant drop in temperatures' on Wednesday, is the fifth storm to be assigned a moniker by the newly formed East Mediterranean Storm Naming Group of Greece, Cyprus and Israel

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Horses in the snow in the northern Golan Heights on Tuesday.
Horses in the snow in the northern Golan Heights on Tuesday.Credit: Gil Eliahu
Sam Sokol
Sam Sokol

Israel is expecting snowy weather with the arrival of winter storm Elpis on Wednesday, which could bring several centimeters of powder to the Golan Heights, Safed and Jerusalem, the Israel Meteorological Service said on Sunday.

Despite expected heavy snowfall over the northern and central mountains on Wednesday, the snow will likely turn to rain by the afternoon, although wind speed will continue to increase in the second half of the day, reaching up to 40-50 miles per hour in some places.

In the Upper Galilee and the central and northern Golan Heights, local councils have announced that schools will shift to remote learning due to the extreme weather. 

Snowplows operating in Jerusalem on Tuesday.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

There is a “risk of flooding in the coastal cities and a risk of flash floods in the Judean Desert and the Dead Sea area,” the IMS warned, adding that there would be “a significant drop in temperatures” on Wednesday.

Although there is some danger of “local flooding,” the rain, which will continue through Friday, “is not expected to be exceptional,” although it will remain “unseasonably” cool, the IMS predicted.

Elpis is the fifth winter storm to be assigned a moniker by the newly formed East Mediterranean Storm Naming Group composed of Greece, Cyprus and Israel. The group has released a list of names to be used for upcoming regional weather events based on “the American method of naming hurricanes,” the IMS explained in a recent Facebook post, noting that unlike in the United States, the list includes both male and female names.

Workers shovel a motorway after a snowstorm, in the Kucukcekmece district of Istanbul on Tuesday.Credit: Yasin AKGUL / AFP

The storm hit Turkey and Greece Monday, bringing a massive cold front and snowstorms and leaving countless people and vehicles in the countries stranded overnight in freezing conditions. Rescue crews in Istanbul and Athens scrambled on Tuesday to clear the snowy roads and highways.

In Israel, plummeting temperatures and heavy rain have led to multiple rescues and at least one known death. Last Sunday, emergency services were dispatched to rescue stranded motorists from flooded streets in the Tel Aviv area. Near the West Bank settlement of Karnei Shomron, first responders rescued a man and an 11-year-old boy from the Kaneh stream.

Truck drivers trapped for hours in a motorway shovel snow in Athens, on Tuesday.Credit: AP Photo/Michael Varaklas

In the greater Tel Aviv area, emergency services rescued a man and a girl who became stranded in their car as a road flooded in Kafr Qasem. South of Tel Aviv, in the vicinity of Nes Tziona and Rehovot, stranded motorists were also rescued from flooded streets. Early Sunday morning, streets in Lod, near Ben-Gurion International Airport, flooded and the police and municipal authorities decided to evacuate several homes.

The stormy weather also led to the largest rise in the water level of the Sea of Galilee since the beginning of the winter. According to the Water Authority, from January 13-16, an average of between 60 and 70 millimeters of rain fell in the Sea of Galilee drainage basin, boosting water levels in the lake by 5 centimeters (2 inches). Since October, the lake has risen 20 centimeters, but in an average rainy season as a whole, the level of the lake rises by eight times that amount.

Firemen push a trapped vehicle at a motorway, after a snowstorm, in Athens, on Tuesday.Credit: AP Photo/Michael Varaklas

Last month, winter storm Carmel dropped more than 100 millimeters (nearly 4 inches) of rain on parts of the country in a three-day period, briefly flooding the Tel Aviv promenade and causing damage across the country. One case of hypothermia took the life of a homeless 40-year-old Tel Aviv man.

The Associated Press and Adi Hashmonai contributed to this report.

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