After seeing a light coating of snow that fell from Wednesday afternoon, Jerusalem residents were bracing for further downfalls overnight Wednesday-Thursday as meteorologists predicted the coldest night of the year in Israel’s capital city.
The snowstorm, which first hit Israel early Wednesday as heavy snow fell in the Golan Heights, was expected to continue throughout the night, dusting parts of the country in white from the north to the south, while other areas saw heavy winds and downpourings of rain.
“Frequent showers accompanied by thunderstorms are expected from the north to the northern Negev. Snow is expected in the northern and central mountains, including Jerusalem,” the Israel Meteorological Service said, adding that there was even a “chance of light snow in Mizpe Ramon,” a town in the center of the Negev desert.
As of Wednesday night, some 2 centimeters of snow had fallen in Jerusalem, shuttering the capital’s public transport system and closing numerous roads including the Route 1 highway leading into the city. The road was later opened as the initial snow began to thaw.
According to the IMS, however, with the temperatures in Jerusalem predicted to drop to 0 degrees celsius throughout the night, more snow was expected to accumulate by morning.
Some areas of the capital may see an accumulation of snow of 5-10 centimeters (two to four inches) and the municipality has prepared snow plows and salt to keep roads open.
Other areas will likely see unusually cold temperatures, scattered rainfall and strong winds, especially in the north and along the coast.
There were some concerns of flooding in coastal and desert areas, and sandstorms and haziness were also expected in the south. Up to 100 kph (60 mph) winds were also expected.
The Golan region in the north saw the most snow in Israel Wednesday, measuring up to 40 centimeters (1.3 feet) in several areas.
As a result, most major highways in the area were closed, with police saying they would remain shuttered until further notice.
Some schools in the Golan region and in the city of Safed in the north were canceled due to snow.
The Education Ministry said Wednesday that it was monitoring the weather and that a final decision on opening schools will be made by individual municipalities on Thursday morning.
The education system remains largely shut in Jerusalem as part of the country’s third pandemic lockdown.
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 (1 foot) of snow. That same storm socked higher elevations south of the city with up to 90 centimeters (3 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 last year since 1994, the weather has since been mostly sunny and unseasonably warm, with occasional rainstorms.