Snow began falling in Jerusalem on Wednesday evening, fulfilling forecasts and prompting closure of the main highway into the capital and all schools for the following day.
A severe weather system, dubbed “Elpis,” had dropped snow on the north of the county from early Wednesday morning, with the conditions spreading steadily south throughout the day.
The first flakes began to fall in Jerusalem at around 7:30 p.m. and were predicted to continue for much of the night, piling up snow at least 10 centimeters deep.
Shortly after the snow started, the Municipality announced that all schools would stay shut on Thursday. Schools had already finished classes early during the day in order to give students an opportunity to get home before the storm started.
Public transportation in the city was also halted in the evening, though the light rail remained in service.
The Israel Police initially closed Route 1, the main artery connecting Jerusalem with the west of the country and Tel Aviv, in both directions where it approaches the capital. But later in the evening police said the road had been cleared of snow and ice and was reopened, but warned that sections of it could be sporadically closed during the night for clearing operations.
The Jerusalem-Tel Aviv train service remained in operation.
In Gilo, the capital’s most elevated neighborhood, enough snow had fallen by around 8:30 p.m. for some local residents to have snowball fights.
Earlier in the day, Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion asked residents to avoid traveling around the city when the bulldozers are working to remove the snow.
He told the Kan public broadcaster that 210 bulldozers and hundreds of tons of salt had been prepared to clear roads.
The storm also brought strong winds and dumped rain in other areas of the country.
Areas at elevations higher than 700 meters (2,300 feet) in the West Bank and north of the country were expected to get high snowfall, the Israel Meteorological Service said.
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 the city 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 (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.
Before arriving in Israel, the winter storm passed through 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.