Stormy weather to subside by tonight

A week of heavy precipitation around the country is set to conclude by Sunday evening.

Rain in Jerusalem (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Rain in Jerusalem
After blanketing Israel’s northern and central mountain peaks and dusting the nation’s capital on Friday, snow largely turned to rain showers on Saturday – amid frigid temperatures.
Jerusalem-area residents, who largely missed the snow on Wednesday and Thursday, received some of the white stuff Friday night. But by early Saturday it had mostly melted – much to the chagrin of children (and children at heart) who, after a buildup that had kept them home from school for much of three days, hoped to build snowmen and go sledding.
A week of heavy precipitation around the country is set to conclude by Sunday evening, though temperatures will remain unseasonably low at least until then, the Israel Meteorological Service said.
Showers accompanied by thunderstorms were likely to continue overnight Saturday, as was snow in the northern mountains, the IMS said.
Accompanying the rains, likely spread southward, there is a high risk of flash floods in the southern and eastern streams and rivers, as well as floods along the coast, according to the IMS.
For Sunday, the meteorological service predicted that occasional showers would persist in the Center and South, gradually weakening and tapering off by nighttime. Temperatures are set to rise somewhat during the course of the day but remain unseasonably low, and flash floods are still possible, the IMS said.
While Lake Kinneret (the Sea of Galilee) rose some eight centimeters from last Saturday through Friday morning, reaching 212.76 meters below sea level, the Water Authority continued to warn on Saturday night of dangers associated with continued inclement weather.
In Safed, Beit Jann and other towns located at higher altitudes, there have been several cases of burst water mains and water heaters as a result of the freezing temperatures, the authority said. Water companies are working on repairs and the situation has posed no problem to the quality of drinking water, although the authority stressed the importance of taking certain precautions.
In areas where temperatures are expected to drop below freezing, the authority advised residents to leave one faucet trickling throughout the night in order to prevent freezing and bursting pipes.
The Education Ministry announced on Saturday night that the northern municipalities of Majdal Shams, Mas’ada, Bukata and Bu’eine Nujeidat had all canceled classes for Sunday due to the inclement weather.
Safed, Beit Jann, the Golan Regional Council and the Upper Galilee Regional Council all said they would announce school closures Sunday morning, following an assessment of weather conditions.
Despite last week’s school closures in the capital, the Jerusalem Municipality issued a statement Saturday evening saying the city was resuming normal operations and all schools were scheduled to be open on Sunday.
Amid the cold temperatures over the weekend, electricity consumption reached 11,380 megawatts, a record-breaking level for winter weekends, the Israel Electric Corporation said.
During the December 2013 storm, which led to blizzard conditions over much of the country and widespread damage, delays and outages, the highest weekend consumption stat was 10,660 MW.
However, all-time winter peak electricity consumption, including weekdays, occurred on Sunday, December 15, 2013, when usage rose to 11,640 MW. The year-round consumption record occurred on July 14, 2012, at 11,900 MW, IEC data said.
Due to the continued rain, cold temperatures and winds predicted by forecasters, IEC employees will be working on an emergency standing until the end of the storm, the company added.
Meanwhile, two Palestinian babies died due to unseasonably cold weather in the Gaza Strip, a Health Ministry spokesman from the coastal enclave told AFP on Saturday.
A two-month-old girl from the southern town of Khan Yunis died on Friday of “a pulmonary obstruction caused by the cold,” the official, Ashraf al-Qudra said. A onemonth- old boy, also from Khan Yunis, died on Saturday, al-Qudra told AFP, without providing further details.
Gazans have complained in recent days about the bitter cold they have had to endure in temporary housing facilities built for those whose homes were destroyed during Operation Protective Edge, according to Israel Radio.
Palestinian reports in Gaza indicated that dozens of homes and caravans had been flooded as heavy rain and winds continued to pound the region last week. Authorities in Gaza were working to evacuate residents from floodhit areas.
Rafah, on the Egyptian border, was reportedly the worst hit by the cold and rain.
“After heavy rainfall houses were flooded to a depth of one meter [and] in places oneand- a-half meters,” a municipal spokesman told AFP, adding that occupants had been evacuated to schools.
Authorities rescued some people using small fishing boats, an AFP photographer reported.
Gaza’s sole power station, which was damaged during the summer fighting, is struggling with a severe lack of fuel and able to supply the enclave with only six hours of power each day, according to AFP.
Reuters contributed to this report.