North and J’lem gear up for white stuff

After blizzard in Hermon, light snow expected in Golan, Galilee, J'lem; emergency centers open, tractors, salt trucks prepare for icy roads.

snow prep jlem_311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
snow prep jlem_311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Amid a certain amount of skepticism, northern hillside local councils and municipalities were opening emergency centers and distributing salt in preparation for a day of snow on Thursday.
Snow was already falling on Mount Hermon, which forced the closure of the ski resort Tuesday.
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The snow is expected to spread to the hills and mountains of the Golan Heights and Galilee by Wednesday night, and continue into Thursday, a forecaster from the Israel Meteorological Service said Wednesday.
A light dusting was expected in Jerusalem on Thursday – but wasn’t expected to stick, the forecaster said.
Nevertheless, amid news that the capital could be cloaked in white on Thursday, the Jerusalem Municipality geared up for a 24-hour vigil to prepare for the first snowstorm to hit the city in three years.
“We ask the public to act responsibly,” Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said on Wednesday, during an inspection of the city’s emergency snow plans at the Givat Shaul maintenance center. “Those who want to come to Jerusalem to see the snow should come before or after the storm. We ask that people drive carefully – and those who are not used to driving in the snow should not drive.”
The mayor also called on the striking social workers not to take part in demonstrations in the capital during the snow storm, to minimize the need for travel.
The city’s maintenance department has 30 tractors standing by – and if the snow is heavier than anticipated, could have up to 100 tractors on the streets at a time. The tractors will be used if it snows more than 10 centimeters, said maintenance workers.
Four salt trucks, including one that arrived on Tuesday, will spread salt around the city at dawn on Thursday. The salt will be spread regardless of snow, because Wednesday’s rain and overnight freezing temperatures will create ice on the roads.
“[The snow] is more annoying than exciting because it means we have a lot of work to do,” said Nissim Itzhak Shariki, a 21-year veteran of the maintenance department, who will drive a tractor during the storm.
He said during the city’s last major snowstorm in 2008 he worked straight through, and didn’t go home for three days.
About 80 maintenance workers will start the emergency snow shifts on Wednesday evening.
In anticipation of the cold temperatures, the city’s youth department has also been working for the past few days to find hostels and temporary housing for young people who sleep on the streets.
Starting Wednesday afternoon, the city opened their emergency operations room, which is staffed by representatives from the police, firefighters, Magen David Adom paramedics, the Israel Electric Corporation, Home Front Command and security forces.
A joint decision will be made at 5 a.m. about whether or not to cancel school, which will be announced on the 6 a.m.
The public is encouraged to report storm-related problems to the municipality’s hotline, 106. The city also encouraged non-essential travel to be put off during the storm, and to leave a hot water faucet dripping to avoid frozen pipes.
After snowing throughout the day on Thursday, the snow is expected to taper off by Thursday night – with rain in the north on Friday, according to the forecaster.
In the north, the Golan Regional Council had opened a joint emergency center with the police and IDF, and was ready to deploy salt on the roads as needed, spokeswoman Dalia Amos said.
“It snows here every year, so we’re prepared,” she said.
On Thursday morning, the regional council would decide whether schools in the northern Golan would open and which, if any, of the major thoroughfares would be closed.
"We’re not talking about a snow storm of several days – but rather a one-day storm,” Amos said. “Our preparedness is geared to the forecast. We have salt for the roads and we are prepared vis-a-vis the communities and the schools.”
In Safed, the city was preparing for snow, but with a touch of skepticism.
“Although there have been forecasts of snow in Safed numerous times, there hasn’t been any serious snow in Safed for the past nine years. We bought and laid in supplies of salt in the past that we never got to use, but maybe this time we will,” Safed spokesman Shlomo Hadad said.
Hadad said the municipality had tractors with plows which would be deployed if needed.
He added that the IDF and National Road Authority would ensure the streets to Ziv Hospital remained open.
The army said that it was mainly responsible for clearing roads to security installations and that technically, Safed’s roads were the responsibility of the municipality and the National Roads Authority.
However, “in recent years, the IDF has helped keep the roads to Ziv Hospital clear in the event of snow.”
A spokeswoman for the Upper Galilee Regional Council said they would decide tomorrow morning if schools would open, and that they were prepared as usual for the snow, “although right now, it isn’t even raining here,” she said.
The Israel Electric Corporation also warned that the high winds and lightning might cause power outages. It has reinforced its emergency repair crews – but added that the inclement weather might produce outages that could only be repaired over time, rather than immediately. They also requested that the public secure any objects that might blow away in heavy winds and damage power lines.
Regardless of the outcome, Barkat said Jerusalem may be most beautiful following a fresh coating of snow.
“Someone who hasn’t seen Jerusalem wearing her white dress hasn’t seen her real beauty,” he said.