Icicles in Majdal Shams, near the Hermon .
(photo credit: YOSSI NAAMAN)
After days of anticipation, the season’s first snowfall finally began in Jerusalem late Monday, as authorities readied for action in case of dangerous road conditions or power outages.
Though temperatures in the daytime were still too warm for snow to accumulate, the Israel Meteorological Service (IMS) said that as temperatures dropped to minus 1 degree centigrade overnight, snow would probably begin to stick by the time Jerusalemites awoke in the morning. The service said that if low temperatures and precipitation continued, snow could blanket the capital to a depth of 5 to 10 centimeters.
The National Traffic Police announced Monday night that due to poor road conditions, it had decided to briefly close Route 443 in both directions between Jerusalem and Modi’in. It was reopened about an hour later, recalling police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld’s earlier announcement that highways to and from the capital would be promptly closed to traffic if there was a safety threat caused by the weather.
“Police have made preparations for the possibility of a heavy snowfall in Jerusalem, and various steps have been coordinated with the Jerusalem Municipality and rescue services – including dozens of 4x4 vehicles that can be quickly dispatched – if Route 1 or Route 443 are closed,” he said. “Extra emergency vehicles are also on standby, including Magen David Adom ambulances, to rescue drivers should they be stuck on roads in and around Jerusalem.”
Meanwhile, the Israel Electric Corporation (IEC) has preemptively reinforced power supplies and deployed extra employees to the capital in anticipation of heightened power needs and possible electrical breakdowns.
The IEC declared a state of emergency and notified Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as well as National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Minister Yuval Steinitz of the company’s plans should power outages occur as a result of the snow. It increased the amount of work crews out in the field, as well as the amount of workers at the 103 call center to deal with customer reports.
At around 6:45 p.m., the IEC reported its highest-ever country-wide electricity demand during the winter season, at 12,200 megawatts, and all signs were pointing to demand that would keep rising. The all-time highest electricity demand was in summer 2015, with 12,905 megawatts.
The Jerusalem Municipality has more than 200 snowplows and hundreds of tons of salt dispersed throughout the city, as well as more than 4,000 mobile heating systems prepared for elderly and other vulnerable residents. Shelters have been set up at community centers in all of the capital’s neighborhoods, the city said.
On the political side, the Knesset closed its plenum meeting early, shortly after 6 p.m., due to the weather, postponing the first vote on the controversial NGO transparency bill.
Egged reported that a number of its bus lines halted service for the rest of the evening due to the inclement weather, in particular the 160 between Jerusalem and Karmei Tzur, lines 51 and 61 between Beersheba and Kiryat Arba, and line 162 between Kiryat Gat and Kiryat Arba.
Northern Israel has seen the coldest temperatures in the country, dipping down -3 degrees in Safed and getting light snowfall, according to the IMS.
A spokesperson for the Mount Hermon ski resort reported that 50 cm. of snow had fallen since Sunday in addition to the 20 that had fallen earlier The water level of the Kinneret rose by 1 cm., leaving it at 212.83 meters below sea level and requiring another 4.03 m. to be considered at full capacity.
The warmest place in the country was near the Dead Sea, where the IMS reported a high of 14 degrees and a low of 10 degrees in Ein Gedi, slightly warmer than Eilat, which had the same 14-degree high, but a colder low of 7.
Ben Hartman and Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.