Country braces for flash floods, strong winds, snow

Jerusalem schools to close at noon ahead of expected flurries.

Rain in Jerusalem (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Rain in Jerusalem
Amid intermittent episodes of heavy rains throughout the day on Wednesday, Israelis braced themselves for even stormier weather forecast for Thursday and the weekend – including evening snowfall in the nation’s capital.
Showers occurred on and off on Wednesday from the North to the northern Negev.
Rains are expected to continue through Saturday, according to Israel Meteorological Service forecasts. Snow is likely to begin falling over Mount Hermon by Wednesday night and spread to the northern and central mountains, including Jerusalem, by Thursday evening, the IMS said.
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On Friday, snowy conditions are to persist in the northern and central mountain areas, with a chance of snow over Negev peaks as well. Snow is forecast to continue falling in the North until Saturday afternoon, with a chance of light snowfall in the central mountains in the morning.
The IMS predicted strong winds, the risk of flash floods, and extreme cold throughout the stormy days.
This weekend’s inclement weather is the result of a typical winter storm system. This is formed when an upper air trough with cold air from Russia combines with a surface depression developing over the eastern Mediterranean, IMS climate department head Dr. Amos Porat told The Jerusalem Post.
“However, this system is unusual, with its very cold air in all atmospheric layers, enabling significant snowfall in the mountains and some snowfall in areas at a lower altitude (500 m. and even lower), which is not typical for Israel,” Porat said.
“We will, of course, have to wait and see how the weather will develop,” he added. “If we do have significant snowfall in Jerusalem, it will be the third winter in a row with significant snowfall there.”
In light of the potentially hazardous conditions, the Jerusalem Municipality issued a warning on Wednesday for residents on how to prepare for the expected inclement weather.
“Buy any basic goods you may need by Wednesday night, including enough food and water for a few days,” the statement read. “Purchase any medical supplies, such as medication, oxygen tanks, etc.”
Warning that police would likely preemptively close highway entrances to Jerusalem by 12 p.m. Thursday, the municipality asked residents to complete all travel before then, and to “avoid traveling on local roads during the storm, except in emergencies, and as instructed.”
The municipality announced Wednesday evening that schools, nurseries and daycare centers in the capital would all close at noon on Thursday.
The municipality also warned residents to remove all objects that are not secured and may fall or be blown away, including plant pots, garden furniture, and signs.
The Water Authority advised that in areas where the temperature drops below 0 degrees Celsius, residents should leave one faucet per household slightly dripping at night – to prevent water pipes from freezing and bursting.
The Israel Police said Wednesday they have carried out a series of meetings ahead of the expected storms, with an emphasis on planning how to deal with the high number of hazards that will face motorists, including flooded roads, felled trees, and snow and ice on streets.
As in previous rounds of stormy weather, police said they will open a control center in Lod that will supervise the situation on the roads and coordinate the dispatch of police to areas of need nationwide.
They will also increase the amount of personnel manning some 100 dispatch centers and have police volunteer rescue units on standby.
In addition, they will operate a helpline that can be reached at the number 110 for citizens looking for information on the weather and road conditions.
They also call on the public to exercise caution while driving in the coming days, and to avoid roads that have been flooded. They also advise drivers to keep their lights on and to avoid stopping on the shoulder if possible.
Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch said they have learned from past storms and will deploy officers before the storm hits in order to get ahead of expected road problems. He also called on the public to heed warnings and to avoid driving whenever possible during the storm.
Israel Electric Corporation CEO Eli Glickman declared a state of alert within the company to prepare for emergency conditions in the coming storm. It has prepared generators and SUVs in remote areas of the country, special mobile units for the Jerusalem area and the North, increased staffing at the *103 customer service center, and heavy equipment necessary for repairs, the company said.
Yad Sarah is preparing to help patients who need urgent medical care in the eventuality of snow in the capital. Dozens of Nechonit vans with access to wheelchairs and other vehicles with chains on their tires have been prepared to transport patients who need kidney dialysis, cancer patients, and handle other emergencies.