Dust storm chokes Israel as Jerusalem braces for snow
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Dust storm chokes Israel as Jerusalem braces for snow

Snow begins falling in north, is expected to move south through the evening; high levels of air pollution in south due to dust

  • Wind surfers ride on waves in the Mediterranean Sea in Tel Aviv on January 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
    Wind surfers ride on waves in the Mediterranean Sea in Tel Aviv on January 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
  • Vehicles drive during a sandstorm in Cairo, Egypt, Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)
    Vehicles drive during a sandstorm in Cairo, Egypt, Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)
  • A picture taken on January 16, 2019 shows a cargo ship amidst high waves off of the Lebanese coast in the capital Beirut. (Photo by JOSEPH EID / AFP)
    A picture taken on January 16, 2019 shows a cargo ship amidst high waves off of the Lebanese coast in the capital Beirut. (Photo by JOSEPH EID / AFP)
  • A Palestinian family sits inside their car on the Mediterranean seaside during a rain storm in Gaza City, Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
    A Palestinian family sits inside their car on the Mediterranean seaside during a rain storm in Gaza City, Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

Strong winds whipped up dust throughout Israel on Wednesday as the country prepared for heavy rain and possible snowfall in Jerusalem.

By the afternoon, snow was already falling in Israel’s mountainous north, where torrential rain and hail stranded some cars and turned streets into rivers of mud.

Jerusalem was bracing for its first snowstorm in years, with police preparing to shut down major highways and many local schools and universities shut down early.

Due to the dust and strong winds from Egypt, the Environmental Protection Ministry reported high levels of air pollution in the south of the country.

The ministry advised people with health issues to refrain from strenuous physical outdoors due to the air pollution, which it said was expected to abate by the evening with the rain.

People walk during heavy winds on Jaffa Street in Jerusalem on January 16, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

As a result of the weather, property damage was reported in a number of locations throughout the country, including in the Gaza-area Eshkol Regional Council where a tree fell on a car. A spokesperson for the regional council said emergency crews rescued the driver from the vehicle, who was uninjured.

While the precipitation was supposed to ease up overnight, further cold weather was expected Thursday.

No significant snow accumulation was expected in Jerusalem, but forecasters said some mountainous areas around the capital could see several centimeters of the white stuff.

Children gather outside their makeshift shelters following torrential rain that affected a refugee camp near the town of Atme in the northern Idlib province on January 10, 2019. (Aaref WATAD / AFP)

The cold snap also brought sandstorms, hail and rain to parts of the Middle East on Wednesday, with visibility down in the Egyptian capital as an orange cloud of dust blocked out the sky. Snow and heavy rains battered Syria and Lebanon’s eastern and northern regions this week, flooding dozens of makeshift refugee camps housing the tens of thousands of displaced Syrians.

On Tuesday, the the United Nations said the freezing temperatures and lack of medical care have killed at least 15 Syrian refugee children in recent weeks.

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