Snow fell on northern Israel and rainstorms began on the coast in the early hours of Wednesday morning as the rest of the country braced for harsh winter weather expected to last until the weekend.
The overnight rains lashed the coast, mainly between Tel Aviv and Haifa.
The first snow fell on Israel in the northern town of Majdal Shams around midnight, Army Radio reported.
By Wednesday afternoon, rare, light snowfall had begun falling in Jerusalem. It was the first snow in the capital since 2019.
שלג החל לרדת בירושלים . בעירייה נערכים לאפשרות של חסימת צירים ראשיים ופתחו מוקד עירוני למעקב אחרי ההתפתחויות .
צילום – שחף רטר, החברה להגנת הטבע pic.twitter.com/lM7jb5gQvO
— panet بانيت (@panetcoil) February 17, 2021
Other areas will likely see unusually cold temperatures, scattered rainfall and strong winds, especially in the north and along the coast.
The Golan region in the north is expected to see as much as 30 centimeters of snow (one foot), while other areas of the north are likely to have up to 10 centimeters (four inches).
There were some concerns of flooding in coastal and desert areas, and sandstorms and haziness were expected in the south.
Forecasters said there was the possibility of light snow in the northern Negev, winds in some areas of up to 110 kilometers per hour (68 miles per hour), and flooding in the Judaean Desert and around the Dead Sea.
Some schools in the Golan region and in the city of Safed in the north were canceled due to snow.
Schools in Jerusalem are expected to operate as usual. The education system remains largely shut in Jerusalem as part of the country’s third pandemic lockdown.
The nearby town of Mevasseret Zion canceled classes, then backtracked and said classes would be open until the early afternoon.
— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) February 17, 2021
Snow may also fall in some high-altitude areas in the center of the country and reach a height of 10 centimeters (four inches).
Some areas of Jerusalem may see an accumulation of snow of 5-10 centimeters (two to four inches) and the municipality prepared snow plows and salt to keep roads open.
Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion said that the municipality was working to locate any homeless people who could be in danger and was increasing welfare checks on the vulnerable residents of the city.
The mayor also said that a last-minute decision would be made on whether schools and kindergartens would open.
Safed was preparing snowplows and distributing blankets to those who may need them. The municipality also warned residents to be prepared for possible disruptions to the power supply.
The temperature in Jerusalem on Wednesday is expected to be 1-5 °C (34-41 °F), and in Tel Aviv 9-12 °C (48-54 °F).
The coldest weather is expected in Mitzpe Ramon in the south, where temperatures are expected to dip to 0 °C (32 °F).
Intermittent heavy rains are expected to continue between northern Israel and the northern Negev region on Thursday and Friday, with fears of flooding in some desert areas.
The Nature and Parks Authority warned of flooding in riverbeds and around streams and told Israelis to avoid those areas on foot and in cars.
A 24-year-old man was found with moderate hypothermia near Tiberias on Tuesday night and sent to a hospital for treatment.
Israel’s central mountainous region, including Jerusalem, gets snowfall every few years.
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.
However, eastern Mediterranean weather is fickle, and predictions of winter wonderlands often do not pan out.
After the country went through its wettest November since 1994, this winter’s weather has since been mostly sunny and unseasonably warm, with occasional rainstorms.