Heavy rains, accompanied by heavy winds and thunderous skies, poured down on Israel this Shabbat, canceling end-of-Passover hiking plans as well as traditional Mimouna festivals.
Following an abnormally hot Wednesday, temperatures began to drop on Thursday – becoming uncharacteristically low by Saturday and accompanied by sporadic bouts of strong precipitation. Snow piled up over Mount Hermon in the North, accumulating to around 10 centimeters, according to Army Radio.
The wintry storm was caused by a depression and low pressure system that occurred unseasonably late in the year, Dr. Amos Porat, director of the Israel Meteorological Service's Climate Department, told The Jerusalem Post.
As a result of the inclement weather, many municipalities canceled their outdoor Mimouna gatherings for Saturday night and Sunday. Mimounas are traditional Moroccan festivals celebrated the evening and day following Passover's conclusion –a day later this year, as a result of Shabbat.
Kiryat Bialik, a city north of Haifa, cancelled its Saturday night Mimouna, but the Haifa municipality said it would still be holding a Mimouna on Sunday, inside an auditorium. The nearby city of Nesher canceled a Peer Tasi performance slated to occur Saturday evening, but transferred actual Mimouna celebrations to an indoor facility. Also in the North, the small town Galilee town of Hatzor Haglilit canceled its Saturday night Mimouna, but the nearby city of Safed still planned to carry out celebrates in an indoor hall on Sunday.
Much further south, the city of Beersheba preemptively canceled its events for Sunday, which were supposed to occur outside in a park.
In central Israel, the city of Rehovot postponed its Mimouna to Monday evening.
While numbers of hikers plummeted on Saturday due to rain, travelers to the nation's national parks, nature reserves and forests amounted to about 2.3 million from the beginning of Passover through Shabbat.
At its national parks and nature reserves, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority (INPA) reported that more than 1.5 million visitors arrived to enjoy the outdoors. Particularly popular were Bet Shean National Park, Caesaria National Park, Apollonia National Park, Yarkon-Afek National Park, Beit Guvrin National Park, the Stalactite Cave Reserve, Ashkelon National Park, Mamshit National Park, Eshkol (Habesor) National Park, Masada, Einot Tzukim Nature Reserve, Ein Gedi Nature Reserve, the Banias, Nahal Iyun Nature Reserve, Tel Dan Nature Reserve, Nahal Snir Nature Reserve, Ein Afek Nature Reserve and the Majrase Nature Reserve.
During the holiday, more than 55,000 people spent nights at campgrounds around the country, the INPA added. Meanwhile, about 46 rescue operations occurred at sites by parks inspectors.
"The people of Israel arrived en masse to the national parks and nature reserves during the Passover holiday," said Raya Shurki, INPA's community director. "INPA employees worked for several month to prepare for the holiday, with an emphasis on checking the paths for the safety and enjoyment of the travelers, on a broad distribution of information stations in open spaces and at entrances to hiking paths and on the creation of many exciting and unique activities for visitors."
About 800,000 travelers visited Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund (KKL-JNF) forests and parks, with 700,000 heading to the sites during the chol hamoed intermediate days of Passover.
"The wintry weather of the past three days left forests empty, but by Sunday morning, we will already begin to prepare for Yom Haatzmaut, and we hope to achieve full capacity." said Hanoch Tzoref, Hahar-Adullam regional director for KKL-JNF.
On Sunday, the IMS forecasted occasional showers from the North to the Negev, with isolated thunderstorms, strong winds and unseasonable cold. Snow will likely continue to fall on Mount Hermon, and a risk of flash floods in low-level areas will remain, the IMS said.
Monday's conditions are expected to be partly cloudy with isolated showers, predominantly in the North, with temperatures rising slightly but still lower than the seasonal average, according to the IMS. By Tuesday, the IMS forecast partly cloudy weather with light local rain in the North, and an additional temperature rise, but still below the seasonal average.
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