Emergency services, transportation hubs preparing for storm's arrival

Snow is expected to begin accumulating on the Golan Heights and in the Galilee already on Tuesday.

By
January 6, 2015 06:38

Jerusalem waiting for the snow

Jerusalem waiting for the snow

 
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Emergency preparations were under way on Monday for the wintry weather set to blanket portions of Israel beginning on Tuesday.

In addition to the mayor of Jerusalem announcing plans to preemptively shut down access roads to the capital, transportation authorities were taking precautions on land and in the air around the country. Israir and Arkia airlines transferred all incoming and outgoing flights to and from Eilat from Sde Dov to Ben-Gurion Airport beginning on Tuesday, while the Transportation Ministry is setting up a situation room.

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Snow is expected to begin accumulating on the Golan Heights and in the Galilee already on Tuesday, building up to a thick layer overnight, Israel Meteorological Service forecasts said. Jerusalem and the other central mountain peaks are likely to begin receiving snow at noon on Wednesday, with large amounts accumulating at night, according to the IMS.

Heavy rains, accompanied by thunderstorms and hail, as well as heavy winds, are expected to impact the north of the country through the northern Negev from Tuesday through Thursday.

In addition to overseeing the transfer of the internal Eilat flights to Ben-Gurion Airport, the Airports Authority announced that all Terminal 1 international departures at Ben-Gurion Airport would be moved to Terminal 3 from midnight Tuesday through midnight Thursday. Terminal 1 would return to activity as normal on Friday morning, the authority said.

At Ben-Gurion Airport, all equipment that could possibly shift as a result of strong winds and thereby pose safety hazards to aircraft has been serviced, the authority added.

Heavy equipment has been installed at the Arava and Jordan Valley on-land border crossings, where heavy flooding is expected to occur, the authority said.



Beginning on Tuesday, the Transportation Ministry will be operating a situation room in the emergency department offices of the IMS. There, ministry officials will coordinate information from all of the agencies under its jurisdiction, including the Airports Authority, Netivei Israel – National Transport Infrastructure Company, Israel Railways, the Jerusalem Light Rail, and public transportation companies and ports, the ministry said.

National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Minister Silvan Shalom organized a discussion on Monday night regarding the readiness of the country’s infrastructure to face the expected stormy weather. Participating in the discussion were representatives of the ministry, Israel Electric Corporation, Israel Natural Gas Lines, the Mekorot national water company, the Water Authority and the government-owned Petroleum & Energy Infrastructures firm.

“We learned many lessons from the storm that occurred last year, the likes of which Israel has not experienced in years,” Shalom said. “I believe that advanced preparations will allow for a prompt response to any possible malfunction and for a regular supply of electricity, fuel and water.”

At the IEC, workers were carrying out technical inspections on the company’s generators on Monday, particularly in the Jerusalem region and in the North, the firm said.

The generators, which are used for emergency electrical supply in the case of outages, have been placed in particularly sensitive areas such as around the capital and Safed, the company added.

Although it isn’t known exactly how much snow will fall in the hilly areas including Jerusalem and the North on Wednesday and Thursday, given last year’s snow catastrophe, the medical and rescue authorities are taking no chances.

Magen David Adom said it will provide medical services and transport to hospitals to anyone who is ill or hurt during the storm. During the heavy snow a year ago, MDA received calls from nearly 50,000 residents around the country, and more than 17,000 of them in the Jerusalem area. Not only are there regular ambulances and mobile intensive care units able to get through the snow and ice, but also dozens of four-wheel-drive and front-wheel-drive ambulances and jeeps.

Last year, MDA treated and took to hospitals almost 500 women in labor, and more than 300 people who fell on pavements who suffered bone fractures and other injuries.

There were 102 road accidents in the capital alone. Extra staffers are being put on duty during the storm. Call 101 in emergencies.

In addition, MDA staffers and volunteers have been brushing up on training for safe driving in the snow and on ice. The local authorities have promised to keep roads leading to hospitals free of snow and safe for ambulances to drive on. Ambulances have also been equipped for coping with hypothermia cases. MDA’s blood services have also been put on a special alert.

MDA advises people not to go out unnecessarily in the snowstorm and when there is ice on the ground, to avoid falls. If one has to get out, it is worth using a stick for balance when walking.

People who are attached to respirators at home should have back-up batteries so the machines can continue to function if the electricity fails.

Other safety tips include avoiding standing or sitting under flimsy roofs, pergolas or temporary structures if the snow on them exceeds 10 cm.

Using gas heaters and others that release carbon monoxide can lead to poisoning. The gas is colorless and odorless but can kill. Rooms where such devices are used require frequent airing out, and the devices must be well maintained to prevent malfunctions. Keep heaters that use open fires or electric spirals away from any kind of inflammable material or furniture. Keep children away from them and do not leave them without supervision. Call MDA immediately if anyone shows ill effects from gas poisoning.

Make sure that babies, young children and the elderly are warmly dressed in layers of light clothing to avoid hypothermia and frostbite.

Check on people who live alone.

Never leave children alone in vehicles.

Driving vehicles in even small amounts of snow can be dangerous if the white stuff covers ice. Take indoors movable objects that could blow in the wind, fall and injure passersby.

In areas where temperatures fall close to or below freezing, residents with solar panels should open the hot-water faucet leading to the heater so they drip slowly, in order to prevent the water from freezing in the pipes and causing expensive damage.

Meanwhile, the Yad Sarah organization in Jerusalem’s Yefeh Nof neighborhood will serve as a collection point for people who urgently need to get to Hadassah Medical Center in Ein Kerem. A situation room will function in the building.

Yad Sarah has prepared hundreds of oxygen tanks and crutches in case of emergency.

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