Jerusalem braces for winter wonderland weekend

Emergency storm equipment, including salt trucks and snow plows, stand ready in case a blizzard hits the city.

Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat snow preparation 390 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat snow preparation 390
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
With a wide grin on his face and cupped hands ready to begin a snowball fight, the mayor of Jerusalem stooped down and hurled fistfuls of salt at a circle of journalists, as the white crystals spurted out of a salt truck’s rear and into a growing pile on the pavement.
Mayor Nir Barkat was visiting the Snow Preparedness site at the Municipal Center in Givat Shaul on Thursday afternoon, where he surveyed the emergency storm equipment – including salt trucks and snow plows – that stood at the ready in case a blizzard hits the city this weekend.
After watching the salt truck in action, Barkat took the driver’s seat of one of the 60 enormous yellow-tractor plows that are set to swallow any snow that hits the city’s streets this weekend. The city has already prepared 65 tons of salt for distribution across its many roads, according to the municipality.
“The city is longing for a storm and for snow,” Barkat told The Jerusalem Post. “The kids in Jerusalem love snow and pray and long for snow, and the challenge is what can we do to convince the weather to have snow? That’s the biggest challenge.”
In addition to the heavy downpours that drenched Jerusalem on Thursday, rain fell from the country’s North to the northern Negev, accompanied by snow over Mount Hermon, as well as strong winds throughout the country.
By Thursday afternoon, winds reached speeds between 20-45 kilometers per hour, according to the Israel Meteorological Service. The IMS also warned that the Mediterranean had become a dangerous spot for bathing, and posted flood watches for both the Jordan Valley and the Judean Desert.
The Kinneret stood at 212.83 meters below sea level as of Thursday morning, now 17 centimeters above the bottom red line, the Water Authority reported.
For Friday, the IMS predicts rainfall in the North with isolated thunderstorms and potentially snow, as well as particularly strong winds and sand storms in the South. Afternoon rains are likely to become increasingly strong and spread down to the northern Negev, causing flood risks, according to meteorologists.
The upper parts of the Golan and the Galilee are likely to begin receiving snow on Friday, and there is a chance of snowfall in Jerusalem for both Saturday and Sunday morning, Dr. Amos Porat, of the IMS’s Climatology Branch told the Post on Thursday afternoon.
Snow will be followed by a rainy afternoon and fading winds, which should lead into a rainy and unseasonably cold Sunday as well, according to the IMS.
“However, the conditions are not ideal for large amounts of snow,” Porat said, noting that the precipitation for the capital city could be a combination of sleet and light snow. “It is hard to tell if we will have heavy snow that will accumulate on the ground.”
Across the country, nonetheless, Israel Electric Corporation workers are preparing for a “stormy” weekend – with strong wind, lightning, rain and hail storms, which can cause damage to power wires. The IEC has therefore requested that residents secure or remove objects that are likely to fly in the wind and batter electrical wires, including roof-water boilers, flowerpots and other types of containers.
It is crucial to avoid touching torn electrical wires and instead dial *103, or call police, to inform the IEC of such issues, a release from the corporation said.
Barkat expressed confidence that Jerusalem was prepared to handle the infrastructural challenges that a storm could pose.
“The city knows how to deal with such things – we usually cut the trees before the winter,” he said. “But again, you have to be very, very cautious. No storm is similar to the one before necessarily.
It depends on the scope and size and the winds and the ice... The public eyes are the best sensors we have.”
He encouraged members of the public to call *106 immediately upon seeing something dangerous, so that professionals can immediately come handle the situation.
IEC officials emphasized that they will do everything possible to prevent power failures and mitigate erratic power-supply issues that may affect customers this weekend. However, officials warned, residents must take into account that the predicted extremely high winds may prevent company teams from fixing all of the problems, and that the return of regular supplies may be slow.
Meanwhile, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority closed down all of its nature reserves, national parks and tourist sites on Thursday, which will remain closed through Monday. Officials warned that even after the sites are reopened, visitors must be careful about their travels and avoid hiking around streams or slippery paths.
Likewise, if snow does hit the hills of Jerusalem and the Golan this weekend, Magen David Adom representatives have also said that they are prepared to cope with accidents and give the public advice on staying safe.
Local authorities have promised that if snow piles up, ambulances will get high priority for getting through cleared roads.
MDA said that its medical branch has refreshed the memories of medical teams on treating frostbite and provided them with gloves, special warm suits and other equipment. The Yad Sarah organization is also gearing up to help people in the case of snow.
The wheelchair-bound, who need assistance in getting urgent medical treatment, can order a Nechonit van with snow chains via its central number *6444. In addition, patients needing kidney dialysis or cancer treatment can also ask for transport if they cannot get to the hospital.
The organization’s headquarters in Jerusalem works 24-hours a day, and its department for lending out medical equipment is on special alert to help those who cannot get out of their home and reach Yad Sarah branches.
If the temperatures go below zero, MDA advised the public to provide extra heating to 24 degrees, rather than the usual 21 degrees Celsius. Families should ensure that their heating devices are safe and that they are only operated with adult supervision, and should introduce moisture into into the air with wet towels or humidifiers, according to the organization.
When going out in the snow, wear several layers of protective clothing, and warm clothing, including socks, at night – but do not use electric blankets and avoid overheating infants, MDA said.
The emergency medical group also urged residents to drive carefully if they must go out, maintain a safe distance from other cars, refrain from leaving children alone in closed vehicles and report all accidents to *101.
“Naturally, if and when it snows, we have to open up the main arteries – the main roads for public safety – but it’s important that people take responsibility and don’t go out from their homes unless they have to,” Barkat told the Post.
Despite the hopes of many of the city’s children, the mayor said he doubted Sunday would end up being a “snow day,” closing schools. However, he urged families to enjoy the potentially white weekend.
“We are finishing the final preparations, we’re listening to the weather, and we’ll see,” Barkat said. “Have fun, and be very cautious with the kids.”