Israel Braces for Blizzard

Forecast predicts possible snowstorm Thursday and Friday in Jerusalem, North; schools, public institutions, emergency forces prepare.

Tova Dvorin, | updated: 20:53

Jerusalem in snow
Jerusalem in snow
Mendy Hechtman/Flash 90

Israel is readying for another snowstorm in the 2014-15 winter season Wednesday, after snowfall last month in Jerusalem, Judea-Samaria, and the North and more than one false alarm for more. 

Northern communities have been scrambling before snow predicted for the Golan Heights over the weekend, and communities have been gathering food and medical supplies, reinforcing security and emergency forces, and have released emergency evacuation plans for residents who may lack heat, according to Walla! News

The Golan Regional Council has convened an emergency headquarters with the participation of representatives from the IDF, the Israel Police, Magen David Adom (MDA), the Fire Department and the Israel Electric Company (IEC). The panel has decided how and when to distribute responsibility for emergencies that may arise during the storm, and delegated search-and-rescue teams for stranded travelers. The Council has also volunteered to provide heating equipment to underprivileged families in need. 

In addition, the Council has also released guidelines and supplies for agricultural workers, including providing extra animal feed and inspecting barns, pens, and sheds for stability and for the possibility of adding heating equipment for livestock. 

The Tzfat Municipality also opened the municipal emergency headquarters due to stormy weather forecasts. Ahead of the onslaught, 25 snow plows have been placed around the city, especially at major roads and intersections, and particularly near Ziv Medical Center. 

The municipality has also assembled a corps of emergency volunteers, including hundreds of people, who will provide assistance to the elderly. The same corps will assess the need for salt to scatter on major roads. The municipality emphasized to residents that during the storm, all departments will be solely focusing on saving lives and emergency procedures.

"We do whatever we can to prepare for it, but we must remember that the elements may be bigger than we are," Tzfat's mayor Ilan Shohat stated Wednesday evening. "I expect residents to show a sense of responsibility and prepare well, as in previous storms." 

Similar steps have been taken by the Merom HaGalil (Galilee) and Upper Galilee Regional Councils.

Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino, meanwhile, convened an emergency session with security and emergency forces in the Meron Regional Council Wednesday, and has reportedly instructed all parties to prepare for extreme weather conditions over the weekend and to act to prevent emergencies.

Nationwide storm?

But not just the North is expecting stormy weather, however. 

Snow has been predicted in areas of higher elevation in Judea-Samaria, as well as in Jerusalem. A large amount of snow is expected to fall on all areas with over 400 meters of elevation nationwide, Channel 10 reports, including - likely - Haifa, Jerusalem, Tzfat, communities in the Golan, Ariel, Shiloh, communities in the Samaria hills, Mevaseret, and even areas south of Jerusalem, including hilltops in the northern Negev.

Snow may reach Dimona, Arad, and Be'er Sheva as well and remain there for a short period, it added. 

Friday, snow is expected to stop in areas of lower elevation, as rainfall in areas unaffected by snow is expected to decrease; colder temperatures are predicted across Israel. 

Rain will continue periodically in central Israel and the Negev, and should taper off by Sunday.  

As of Wednesday night, cold temperatures and rain before the snow is expected from the North to the Negev. Lows overnight are expected to reach 10C (50F) in Tel Aviv; 3C (42.8F) in Jerusalem; 6C in Haifa; 7C (44.6F) in Be'er Sheva; 9C (48F) in Tiberias (Tiveria); Tzfat (Safed) and the Galilee area 8C (46F); Ein Gedi and Dead Sea region, 12C (54F); Mitzpe Ramon and the Negev 3C (42.8F); and Eilat 10C (50F). 

IEC, MDA prepare

Due to the expected strong winds - which may reach up to 100 kph - the IEC announced Wednesday night that it requests from the public to maintain vigilance and report immediately on torn electrical wires or other damage to the power grid. 

In addition, the public is asked to remove from balconies, roofs and clotheslines objects that could fall on power lines.

The IEC has reminded the public not to touch live wires, and to call immediately the 103 IEC hotline or the Israeli Police at 100, or to email or post on the company's Facebook page. 

Meanwhile, MDA has announced that it has deployed extra medics and paramedics to accompany IDF APCs stationed at the heart of the affected areas, to help injured travelers brave the snowstorm and provide medical access to places cut off from major roads. 

The medical organization has urged all residents in affected areas to stay indoors in well-heated areas until the storm passes. In an emergency that requires evacuation to hospital in snow conditions, they ask the public to call the 101 emergency line. 

Cancellations abound

Schools and universities in affected areas have already announced preemptive cancellations Wednesday. Ariel University has closed for Thursday and Friday; Hebrew University of Jerusalem has ended classes by 12:45 pm Thursday and all day Friday; the Open University has cancelled classes Thursday and Friday.

Bar-Ilan University will still be conducting classes as scheduled and have advised students living in Jerusalem to take the Israel Railway service to attend classes, ahead of expected road and public transportation closures. 

Some elementary schools have already announced closures as of Wednesday night; as of now, several schools in the Golan Heights region and in Ariel have been closed beginning from 1:30 pm Thursday. 

All educational institutions in Jerusalem, including kindergartens, elementary schools, daycare centers, high schools, and special education institutions will close Thursday at 12:00 pm, the Jerusalem Municipality has now announced (update: 9:00 pm). 

Flights may be cancelled or delayed as well, Ben-Gurion Airport officials told Channel 10, and advised travelers to expect delays due to the inclement weather. All travelers with flights Thursday through Saturday have been advised to arrive three hours before takeoff. 

Snow hysteria has even reached the political system, and President Reuven Rivlin has cancelled several appearances scheduled for Thursday due to the storm, the Government Press Office (GPO) announced Wednesday night.