Jerusalem Braces for Rare Snow Rerun as Storm Approaches; Hermon Ski Site Closed

Jerusalem yesterday braced for a rare second winter snowfall, as a storm that has blanketed parts of Greece and Turkey reached the Israeli coast yesterday evening.

Today will start off cold and stormy with bursts of rain and hail across the country, but the weather will moderate as the day progresses.

Snow was expected to fall last night on all mountains above 600 meters in the north and center of the country, and even in the Negev.

The Jerusalem municipality is to announce this morning whether schools will be open today, after examining last night's snowfall.

The first flakes began falling in the north and in the Judean Hills yesterday afternoon, as temperatures across Israel dropped sharply.

"It will come in force, in one gust," said meteorologist Boaz Dayan of the storm, which was forecast to send temperatures plunging as snow began to fall in the Hermon region and the Galilee highlands.

"It's very similar to the previous storm, but unlike that one, it will not come in two waves, but in one continuous front."

Meanwhile, the Mount Hermon ski resort was closed yesterday, after a heavy fall of snow made conditions there treacherous.

The snow was expected to spread to the mountains in the center of the country, including Jerusalem, last night.

The Jewish National Fund reported an increase in illegal tree felling for heating purposes in the north.

The Israel Electric Corporation asked the public to fasten down loose objects that might be blown away by the forceful winds, hitting power lines and disrupting the electricity supply.

The Jerusalem municipality said yesterday it was prepared for snow, after spreading 34 tons of salt along the city's main thoroughfares. Dozens of tractors and snowplows had been stationed around the city to make sure that 500 kilometers of central roads leading to hospitals and neighborhoods are clear throughout the day.

The city also rounded up homeless people and tried to convince them to stay in hostels during the storm.

The Ayit airline, which operates flights to northern Israel, canceled its flights from Tel Aviv's Sde Dov airport starting at noon yesterday.

Airport Authority workers were briefed yesterday about the possible hazards caused by strong winds, storm, heavy fog, heavy showers and snow. No flight schedules had been changed as of last night.

Meanwhile, in Greece, the storm left about 200 villages stranded in heavy snowfalls across the country and forced Greek airport authorities to cancel dozens of flights.

In Athens, residents awoke Sunday to freezing temperatures and a thick layer of snow covering the Acropolis, a phenomenon that occurs only once every few years.

"The same very cold front of air that caused heavy snow in Greece will hit Israel," said meteorologist Nahum Malik.

Malik also said the cold front is shaping up to be somewhat less severe than was first thought.

"In the beginning, it seemed like this system would be more extreme," he said. "But ultimately it is taking a longer path over the Mediterranean Sea, which warms it up."