Winter weather forecast causes school closures Friday throughout Israel as country braces for snow

Educational facilities to closes in South, Jerusalem, North in light of renewed inclement weather.

Jerusalem Light Rail in snow (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Jerusalem Light Rail in snow
While Jerusalem residents are yet to receive the winter wonderland they have been anticipating, Lake Kinneret (the Sea of Galilee) is reaping the benefits of the ongoing storm.
Since rain began to fall throughout the country last Saturday, the Kinneret’s basin level has risen significantly, climbing to 212.77 meters below sea level by Thursday morning, and rising about another full centimeter by the evening, Water Authority officials said.
On a national scale, meanwhile, the cumulative sum of precipitation during this year’s rainy season has reached 1.36 times the longterm average for the same period annually, according to the Water Authority.
“The storm certainly meets our expectations,” Amir Givati, head of the surface water department at the Water Authority’s Hydrological Services, told The Jerusalem Post.
“There were significant amounts of precipitation in the North and Lake Kinneret rose 8 centimeters and will continue to rise in the coming days.”
Rainfall amounts over Lake Kinneret thus far add up to about 120 mm. and in the Western Galilee some 100 mm., the Water Authority said.
Flow has also increased in many of the country’s rivers and streams, particularly in the Kinneret drainage basin, in Nahal Alexander, and in Nahal Ayalon.
The coastal plain had received from 30 to 70 mm. of rain by about 5 p.m. on Thursday, while 40 to 80 mm. fell in the northern valleys and the central mountains, the Israel Meteorological Service said. In the northern Negev, from 15 to 30 mm. of rainfall had accumulated.
So far the course of the storm – which is set to continue over the next few days – has most significantly impacted the country’s northern mountain peaks, the IMS said. In the northern Golan Heights, up to 40 cm. of snow has accumulated, and in Upper Galilee from 10 to 20 cm., the IMS said.
The central mountains received significantly less snow, with only about 5 cm. accumulating in Jerusalem and 10 cm. in Gush Etzion and Samaria, the IMS data said.
Nonetheless, the capital’s chance for more snow during this storm series is not quite over.
Overnight between Thursday and Friday, the IMS forecasted a resumption of snowfall in the mountains of the Center and the Negev, with lighter snow in the North. The snowfall is likely to continue throughout the day on Friday, piling up on the ground in the central mountains, including in Jerusalem and the Negev highlands, the IMS said.
Temperatures on Friday will continue to drop, falling to below freezing in certain regions, the IMS warned.
In areas where the temperature drops below 0 degrees Celsius, the Water Authority recommends leaving one faucet per household slightly dripping at night – to prevent water pipes from freezing and bursting. The Jerusalem Municipality recommends keeping water heaters on for the same purpose.
Due to the abnormal cold, isolated cases of hypothermia have resulted in hospitalizations, according to media reports.
In a statement Thursday night, the Jerusalem Municipality warned residents of extreme cold and icy conditions in the capital, which are expected to last until Saturday and likely to result in the closure of Routes 1 and 443.
Additionally, the municipality cautioned residents to avoid nonessential traveling during that period. In the event of snowfall or dangerously icy conditions, the municipality said public transportation may become limited, although the light rail is expected to run until Shabbat.
The Education Ministry announced school closures throughout the country on Friday in light of the renewed inclement weather.
In the South, classes were canceled in Arad, the Har Hebron Regional Council area, and in the Tamar Regional Council district. In the Jerusalem region, classes were canceled in Efrat, Har Adar, Kiryat Arba, Beit El and Gush Etzion.
The Jerusalem Municipality also announced the cancellation of all day care centers, preschools, and schools in the city due to the expected cold weather and renewed snow accumulation. The municipality said the decision was made in coordination with the local parent’s association.
Meanwhile, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem canceled all classes and work on Friday.
In Safed, the municipality said it would announce possible Friday school closures only at 6 a.m. following an assessment of the situation.
Following criticism by many parents over the cancellation of schools, the Mevaseret Zion Municipality announced that classes would be suspended on Friday.
On Thursday, the Jerusalem Municipality was also criticized by many parents for announcing at 6 a.m. that classes would resume as scheduled on Thursday beginning at 10 a.m.
“The manager of the operations room of the parent’s association recommends that every parent decide whether to send their children to preschool or school according to the conditions and personal abilities,” the Jerusalem Parent’s Association wrote on its Facebook page on Thursday.
“We understand that, on the one hand, some of the parents are unhappy with the decision, and on the other hand some parents are satisfied. As such, we suggest that parents make individual decisions in order to pass these cold days without any casualties,” the association wrote.
Earlier this week, Michal Cohen, director-general of the Education Ministry, instructed the educational system to prepare for the stormy weather. As part of its efforts, the ministry opened operation rooms in Jerusalem districts on Tuesday to closely monitor developments and respond as required. The ministry is also operating a telephone hotline for the public, though it requested that parents contact local authorities regarding school closures.
School principals should consult with the education departments at local authorities and with representatives of the Education Ministry as needed to assess the situation and decide whether to cancel classes, the ministry instructed.
The ministry canceled all school trips from Wednesday through Friday to areas expecting snow or flooding.
While Jerusalem and the Negev peaks are likely to see more snow on Friday, rain is set to continue falling in the rest of the Center and South all day.
Heavy rain, accompanied by thunderstorms, gusts, and hail, may impact the North and Center on Saturday, according to the IMS.
By evening on Sunday, rainfall is expected to taper off. As the weather clears on Sunday night, however, a serious risk of icy road surfaces remains, the IMS warned.
After being closed on Wednesday evening and overnight, most of the roads to and within Jerusalem were open on Thursday morning, the Transportation Ministry said. The ministry warned, however, that some of the routes remain icy.
Public transportation to and from, as well as within Jerusalem also resumed.
On Thursday night, however, several night bus lines to Jerusalem ceased to run due to the impending inclement weather, the Transportation Ministry said. Among the suspended lines were 270 from Ofra, 264 from Kfar Etzion, 267 from Efrat, and 260 from Kiryat Arba.