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      Forecast: A White Sabbath

      Israel is preparing for its first nationwide snowstorm in years. Snow is expected to pile up in Jerusalem on Friday and even in lower areas.
      By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
      First Publish: 2/29/2012, 10:52 AM

      Snow in Jerusalem
      Snow in Jerusalem
      Flash i90

      Israel is preparing for its first nationwide snowstorm in years. Snow is expected to pile up in Jerusalem on Friday and even in lower areas.

      Temperatures sank Tuesday night, heavy snow closed the Hermon ski resort, where more than six feet of snow has piled up on the upper slopes, and rain fell from the north to the northern Negev.  

      The storm is expected to dump up to four inches of much needed rain in many parts of the country. Jerusalem residents may see a bit of snow or snow mixed with rain Wednesday night and Thursday, but colder temperatures on Friday will bring down the white stuff, with accumulations, according to weather forecasters.

      As usual, predicting snow in the central parts of the country is tricky because the lowest temperatures during a rain storm usually hover around freezing. The national weather service, burned in the past by wrong predictions of snow, is playing it safe and saying only that on Friday night, “snow is also possible in Jerusalem.”

      Private forecasters are more certain that snow will pile up not only in Jerusalem but also in lower hills.

      “There will be significant snowfall Wednesday night and Thursday morning in hills over 750 meters high in the north and 900 meters in the center of the country,” approximately the height of Jerusalem, according to a forecaster on the Tapuz Israeli weather forum.

      “Light snow will fall in Jerusalem and there will be very light accumulation in neighborhoods at higher levels,” the forecast continued. “On Thursday, snow will fall only above 1,100 meters in the north, but on Thursday night and Friday it will fall in places as low as 600-650 meters high in the north and 700 meters n the center of Israel. Accumulations in Jerusalem will be medium to heavy.”

      Snow also is expected in Gush Etzion, the southern Hevron Hills and the mountainous Mitzpeh Ramon in the central Negev. Travelers are warned of flash floods throughout the country, especially in the Dead Sea and southern areas. Scattered rain will continue on the Sabbath and possibly on Sunday.

      The welcome rains and runoff from the northern hills have added nearly an inch a day to the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) which now lacks 3.61 meters before dams would have to be opened to prevent flooding of the beachside city of Tiberias. Opening the dams would bring some relief to the severely depleted Dead Sea, which receives water from the Jordan River.

      Since Wednesday afternoon, one inch of rain was recorded in Karnei Shomron and Ginot Shomron in central Samaria and in the western Negev, and half an inch fell on Jerusalem and northern Samaria.

      If the weather predictions are correct and four inches of rain fall in the north, there is a fair chance that the lake’s level will lack only 2.5 meters from capacity, the highest level in years.