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Israel braces for heavy snow, strong winds as winter storm Elpis blows in

Up to 20 cm of snow predicted to fall in Jerusalem starting Wednesday, more at higher elevations; authorities urge public to stay off roads, close schools early

Israel soldiers stand near a Merkava IV battle tank parked in a military post near the Syria border in the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights on January 24, 2022. (JALAA MAREY / AFP)
Israel soldiers stand near a Merkava IV battle tank parked in a military post near the Syria border in the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights on January 24, 2022. (JALAA MAREY / AFP)

Israel was girding Tuesday for severe weather and predictions of heavy snowfall blanketing parts of the country, including Jerusalem, in coming days.

Winter storm Elpis was expected to make landfall Tuesday night, bringing strong winds and dumping as much as 20 centimeters (8 inches) of snow on the capital and even more in northern Israel.

Heavy rains were expected to soak other parts of the country.

The Israel Meteorological Service (IMS) said showers and thunderstorms would start in the north and on the coast on Tuesday night, and intensify overnight. Temperatures will likely drop to around freezing and stay below average for several days.

Snow was expected in parts of the north and center of the country starting Wednesday afternoon.

Meteorologists predicted that Jerusalem may get some 20 centimeters (8 inches) of snow by Thursday morning, which would mark the heaviest accumulation there in years.

Areas at elevations higher than 700 meters (2,300 feet) in the West Bank and north of the country were expected to get even higher snowfall totals, the IMS said.

The Jerusalem municipality said schools would close early Wednesday and bulldozers were being prepped to dispose of the snow. The Gush Etzion settlement bloc south of the capital, which is at a higher elevation than the capital, said it would also close schools early, and closures were expected Wednesday and Thursday in other locations where snow was predicted.

Snow in the Golan Heights, northern Israel, on January 19, 2022. (Maor Kinsbursky/Flash90)

The snow will fall first in the north’s Golan Heights, then in other areas at lower elevations. Transportation officials said travel disruptions were expected in the north and the capital. Police called on people to refrain from unnecessary travel to keep roads clear.

While the snow will turn to rain by Thursday in much of the north, the northern Golan Heights was expected to get snow until the end of the week.

Snow in the northern Golan Heights, on January 19, 2022. (Michael Giladi/Flash90)

The Mount Hermon ski resort in the Golan Heights announced it will be closed on Sunday and Monday next week due to the weather conditions, but was expecting a busy weekend at the site.

There is a danger of flooding on the coast and in some other low-lying areas until Friday. The meteorological service warned of flash floods in the Judean Desert and Dead Sea region.

Winds may reach speeds of 60-80 kilometers per hour (37-50 miles per hour) in some areas.

The winter storm is on its way to Israel from Turkey and Greece. It caused havoc in Istanbul on Tuesday by clogging major roads, leaving countless people and vehicles stranded overnight in below-freezing conditions.

Snow in Istanbul, Turkey, on January 25, 2022. (AP Photo/Kemal Aslan)

Israel’s central hilly region, including Jerusalem, gets snowfall once every few years.

The severe weather system comes a week after predictions of snow in Jerusalem mostly failed to materialize, with Jerusalem seeing only a few lone flakes.  The capital last saw significant accumulation in February 2021, with up to 15 centimeters (6 inches) in some places.

In 2013, a major blizzard knocked out power in several neighborhoods after blanketing the city with up to 30 centimeters (one foot) of snow. That same storm socked higher elevations south of the city with up to 90 centimeters (three feet) of snow, in what was deemed a once-in-a-century event.

Israelis play in Sacher Park during heavy snowfall in Jerusalem, on Thursday, December 13, 2013. (Flash90)

However, eastern Mediterranean weather is fickle, and predictions of winter wonderlands often do not pan out.

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