Promise of snow disappoints in sodden Jerusalem

Promise of snow disappoints in sodden Jerusalem

Schools open, but forecasters warn snow and ice still likely on mountain roads around capital and in north

People walk with umbrellas in central Jerusalem as light snow begins to fall, January 25, 2016. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
People walk with umbrellas in central Jerusalem as light snow begins to fall, January 25, 2016. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Jerusalemites woke to a soggy but unsnowy city Tuesday morning as a forecast storm failed to dump significant snow over much of the city, instead leaving unshuttered schools, unclosed roads and a nearly unaffected capital in its unterrifying wake.

Despite repeated warnings by forecasters in recent days, Monday overnight saw little to no snow in most areas of the capital, with only a light dusting in the highest-elevation neighborhoods.

The city had prepared with over 200 snow plows, tractors deployed with tons of salt across the city and police ready to shut the major highways leading into Jerusalem.

But shortly after 5 a.m. local time, with almost no snow on the ground and forecasters saying temperatures aren’t expected to dip below freezing until Tuesday night, the municipality announced all schools would open normally for the day.

“In light of the updated weather forecast, the municipality has decided, together with the municipal parents’ organization, that the routine schedule will be maintained in all schools, kindergartens and preschools in Jerusalem,” a municipal statement explained.

A car displays the extent of snow (almost none) in jerusalem on January 26, 2016. (Joshua Davidovich/Times of Israel)
A car displays the extent of snow (almost none) in Jerusalem on January 26, 2016. (Joshua Davidovich/Times of Israel)

“It’s important to note that snow flurries are possible throughout the day in the city, but forecasters do not expect it to pile up in any significant way,” the statement added.

Forecasters said that temperatures would remain cold throughout the day, and intermittent rains would continue, occasionally turning to snow, until Wednesday, especially in the center and south of the country.

Local officials in the Etzion Bloc and the Binyamin Regional Council, two areas in the West Bank south and north of Jerusalem respectively, and where snowfall had already shut down sections of Route 60 on Monday, delivered a similar message Tuesday morning after snow failed to accumulate overnight.

All schools and roads in the Etzion and Binyamin areas are open.

Addressing expected complaints from school children over uncanceled classes, Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat told Army Radio that the city, which has been hard up for unextraordinary days given a recent terror wave, would take what it could get.

Similarly, there were no reports of school and road closures in Palestinian cities, many of which sprawl across West Bank mountaintops, or in mountainous northern cities such as Safed.

A short stretch of Route 90, the main north-south highway in the Jordan Valley, was closed near the southern Dead Sea Tuesday morning over fears of flash floods.

While snow remained elusive, the cold that gripped the country overnight led to power outages in central Tel Aviv and several suburbs, including Givatayim and Ramat Gan, though all the outages had reportedly been repaired by morning.

On Monday, police had said they were preparing to close Routes 1 and 443 into Jerusalem as scattered snow flurries began falling in some parts of capital and the surrounding area late Monday afternoon. While 443 was shut briefly, the roads remained largely open and passable through the night.

A police spokeswoman said officials will decide whether to close some roads — or segments of them — based on ongoing assessments about the risks of driving on them.

A special hotline, 110, is open for calls regarding the situation on the roads.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday said during a Likud faction meeting that his government was “doing a lot” to cope with the coming storm.

“I was just updated by the public security minister, the police chief and the director of Israel Electric Corporation — they are all prepared, also the municipal hotlines, the Home Front Command [of the IDF] and all emergency services, everyone is working.”

“We have been through much more difficult storms and I hope we pass this one without casualties. What the public needs to do is simply to follow the instructions [of security and emergency services], stay in the house more. We stay in this house and are doing our job,” Netanyahu said in reference to the Knesset.

Earlier on Monday, rainfall raised the level of the Sea of Galilee and shut desert roads amid fears of flash floods.

Rainfall that began Sunday led to a 2-centimeter rise in the Sea of Galilee’s level by Monday afternoon, even as much of the rainfall has concentrated on the center of the country, too far south to have contributed to the increase.

As the mountains around Jerusalem and the Judean Hills were pelted with periodic strong rains and some flurries, the main north-south highway in the Jordan Valley, Route 90 along the Dead Sea, was shut over fears of flash floods crashing down on the road from the riverbeds of the West Bank highlands to the west.

The army ordered the closure of Route 60, the main north-south highway through the central West Bank, as soon as persistent snowfall begins on Monday, but reopened the road soon after when the snow failed to accumulate.

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