Golan sees record low temperatures during storm

Icy roads, traffic jams impede thousands heading to Hermon ski resort

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

A tractor removes snow from the road in the Golan Heights on January 8, 2015. Photo by Basal Awidat/FLASH90.
A tractor removes snow from the road in the Golan Heights on January 8, 2015. Photo by Basal Awidat/FLASH90.

Mount Hermon opened to visitors Monday after last week’s major storm, and thousands of tourists flocked to the ski resort, causing massive traffic jams stretching several kilometers from its entrance.

Icy roads have caused lane closures and slowed the thousands of tourists rushing to the Hermon, the site of Israel’s only ski slopes. Some drivers have even been waiting in their cars since Sunday night to visit the mountain, the Ynet news site reported.

The icy conditions also closed the northern entrance to the city of Safed.

This week’s storm was a benchmark in one notable way: the cold.

While last year’s snowfall of 60-100 centimeters in the Golan Heights dwarfed this year’s 40 centimeter offering, the Israeli Meteorological Society reported that Kibbutz Merom Golan on the Golan Heights experienced temperatures of -14.2° Celsius (6.4° Fahrenheit) during last week’s storm, the coldest temperature measured during Israel’s 65-year history. This chilly record was reached at 5 a.m. Saturday.

The previous low was reached in February 1950 in the Beit Netofa valley, between Haifa and Tiberias. That year temperatures plunged to 10° below zero (14°F). The Golan Heights were not a part of Israel at that time and their higher altitude likely would have earned them the original record too.

Other parts of the Golan also experienced sub-zero temperatures. Kibbutz Ortal reached -11°C (12.2°F) and Ein Zivan reached -10°C (14°F).

Last week’s storm blanketed the Golan Heights and Jerusalem with snow and pounded the center and north of Israel with wind and rain, causing flooding, power outages and damage from downed trees. But the storm did have a positive effect at least on the Sea of Galilee. The Kinneret, as it’s known in Israel, rose 13 centimeters (5 inches), according to the Israeli Water Authority.

The IMS forecasts Monday and Tuesday to be warmer and only partly cloudy, but rain will likely return Wednesday evening throughout the country.

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