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Photo by: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post
Jerusalemites’ thoughts turn to snowflakes
By SHARON UDASIN AND DANIEL K. EISENBUD
10/12/2013
Barkat says capital prepared for snowfall, that may fall as early as Thursday; snow to also fall on Golan, mountain peaks.
 
After two winters in a row that did not disappoint, Jerusalem’s residents are waiting in anticipation for a potentially snowy end to their week.

“Snow in Jerusalem is a celebration for Jerusalemites and the many visitors who come to see the most beautiful city in the world painted white,” said Mayor Nir Barkat. “We hope the snow does not disappoint – especially the children of Jerusalem who are waiting and excited.”

An influx of cold air flowing from Eastern Europe to the Eastern Mediterranean region will bring about wintry weather for the next few days, beginning with heavy rains and winds on Wednesday, according to data compiled by Israel Meteorological Services deputy director Nir Stav.

Although forecasts indicate that snow in Jerusalem would likely begin only on Thursday, Barkat declared the capital ready for the possible storm already on Tuesday, following a visit to the municipal snow preparedness center.

“There’s actually a very good chance of snow in Jerusalem,” Alissa Razy, an on-duty IMS forecaster, told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday evening.

The various weather models are in agreement that there may be snow in the capital on Thursday and Friday and even into Friday night, Razy added.

“We have a long enough window of opportunity that we’re fairly confident that there will be snow in Jerusalem,” she said.

All over the country, temperatures will be between 7 and 9 degrees centigrade below average, and snowfall may begin as early as Wednesday night in the country’s North, Razy explained.

Snow could also fall in the northern Negev on Friday, she added.

As far as Jerusalem’s preparedness is concerned, the city is equipped with 100 snowplows, numerous snowmobiles, salt-spreading equipment and 90 tons of salt dissolution, Barkat said.

In the event of a storm, an emergency call center will be manned 24 hours a day, and the Welfare Department and Youth Advancement Division will have ongoing patrols to help the homeless, elderly and those with special needs obtain shelter, Barkat said.

Meanwhile, Veterinary Services has completed its preparations for the weather by activating heating systems in animal cages.

The mayor asked the public to refrain from actions that could be hazardous – particularly driving on dangerous snow-covered roads – and suggested buying all necessary supplies before the snow falls.

“The storm is expected to last the entire weekend and we encourage the public to purchase food and supplies ahead of time,” he said. “It is important to note that the municipality will evaluate the situation depending on the weather and have updates on its website and Facebook page.”

Still, despite all the precautions, Barkat said he welcomed the snow as a special celebration for residents, visitors and children alike.

On Wednesday afternoon, strong westerly winds with intensities between 50 and 80 kph may affect longitudinal roads, as well as the Sde Dov Airport and the Ashdod Port, the data from IMS said.

There will likely be a rapid increase in the height of waves as well at the Haifa Port. In addition, widespread rain in strong, heavy volumes may cause flooding in the country’s North and Center.

By Wednesday evening, snow may fall on the Golan Heights and Galilee mountain peaks, the IMS data said.

Snow may fall over all of the country’s mountain peaks, including those in the Center, on Thursday morning, but by around noon the central mountains will receive mostly sleet, the IMS data reported.

The southern coastal plain in particular will be at risk for flooding, and the central mountain peaks will once again possibly receive snow in the evening.

Throughout Friday morning, there is still a possibility of occasional snow on the country’s mountain peaks, including both in the Center and in Negev highlands like Mitzpe Ramon, the IMS said.

Winds will once again become strong that day, reaching speeds between 40 and 60 kph. A risk of flooding will continue, particularly throughout the southern coastal plain, while Jerusalem will predominantly receive rain and some sleet. By Friday evening, snow may return to the country’s mountain peaks, the IMS data added.

By Saturday, there will still be a possibility of more snowfall on the country’s mountain peaks, including those in the Center and in the Negev, and flooding risks will persist, according to the IMS. Winds and rains should diminish by the evening.

December snowfalls are quite rare in Israel and occur only once every five to seven years, the IMS said.

In almost all cases of snowfall since 1950, Jerusalem’s bounties were light, not exceeding 1-2 cm. Last year’s snowy event occurred in January, while the 2012 wintry mix hit the capital in the first week of March.

In light of the predicted winter storm, both the transportation safety organization Or Yarok (Green Light) and the National Road Safety Authority warned drivers and pedestrians to take extra precautions while proceeding on the nation’s roads, as slipping and loss of vehicle control can occur.

Last year, 41 people were killed on wet or muddy roads, an increase of 30 percent in comparison to 2011, the organization said. On average, about 30 fatalities occur each year due to such circumstances, while 2,200 injuries take place as a result of the accidents, Or Yarok reported, citing data from the Central Bureau of Statistics.

For 2013 thus far, 18 people have been killed while traveling in wet and muddy conditions, and 900 people have been injured – with 59 of these injuries characterized as severe, according to Or Yarok.

Among the biggest problems of Israeli winters are the long intervals of time between rainy periods, causing each rainfall to bear characteristics of a “first rain,” the organization explained. During first rains there is an increased danger of slipping because oil droplets and dust mix with the water, forming a thin layer of viscous fluid on the road.

One measure that can reduce the risk of slipping is the use of grooved asphalt to pave roads, a norm in the Netherlands that allows rain to drain faster from the roads, the organization added.

“The high number of fatalities on wet roads beckons a wake-up call to the state, to work immediately to improve the infrastructures,” said Shmuel Aboav, CEO of Or Yarok. “To save lives this winter, the state must identify the potential hazards and invest resources in those places to prevent wetness and slipping on the roads.”

Like Or Yarok, the National Road Safety Authority – which operates as a branch of the Transportation Ministry – also issued many safety tips for drivers who take to the nation’s roads during the storm.

During conditions with poor visibility, it is important to drive at least 20 kph slower than usual, and during rainy and windy weather, 30 to 40 kph slower, the authority said.

It is crucial to maintain the proper distance between vehicles.

In all vehicles with antilock breaks (ABS), it is critical to stop as usual and avoid pumping the brakes, the authority added.

Drivers should as much as possible avoid passing during inclement weather conditions, and should drive slower in residential areas to make way for pedestrians. Ensuring that all components of the vehicle are operating properly is particularly vital, as are using the car’s lights and continuing to wear seat belts, the authority said.

The Road Safety Authority warned pedestrians to exercise particular caution when crossing streets and advised cyclists to avoid riding their bikes during conditions with strong winds, rains or low visibility.
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