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Snowfall overnight in Jerusalem closes main highways to capital

Schools to remain shuttered; municipal workers toil overnight to clear roads, spread salt as capital sees rare heavy snowfall; dozens of roads closed in northern Israel

  • Snow falls on Jaffa street in Jerusalem, as a heavy storm hits nationwide, January 26, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
    Snow falls on Jaffa street in Jerusalem, as a heavy storm hits nationwide, January 26, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
  • An Israeli policeman confronts rioters in East Jerusalem during a rare snow storm on January 26, 2022. (Israel Police)
    An Israeli policeman confronts rioters in East Jerusalem during a rare snow storm on January 26, 2022. (Israel Police)
  • Snow falls in Jerusalem as a heavy storm hits nationwide, January 26, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
    Snow falls in Jerusalem as a heavy storm hits nationwide, January 26, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
  • Snow falls in Jerusalem as a heavy storm hits nationwide, January 26, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
    Snow falls in Jerusalem as a heavy storm hits nationwide, January 26, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
  • Snow falls in Jerusalem as a heavy storm hits nationwide, January 26, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
    Snow falls in Jerusalem as a heavy storm hits nationwide, January 26, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
  • Snow falls in Jerusalem as a heavy storm hits nationwide, January 26, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
    Snow falls in Jerusalem as a heavy storm hits nationwide, January 26, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
  • Snow falls in Jerusalem as a heavy storm hits Israel, January 26, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
    Snow falls in Jerusalem as a heavy storm hits Israel, January 26, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Jerusalem residents woke up Thursday to a blanket of white after a rare storm saw snow continue to fall through the night, largely cutting the city off from the rest of the country.

Already on Wednesday as snow began to fall and fulfilling forecasts, authorities declared a snow day with school closed on Thursday.

On Thursday morning several main roads leading to the city remained closed, including Route 1 from the entrance to the city of the Sha’ar Hagai interchange. Route 443 was also closed from Jerusalem to Modiin. A number of roads leading to nearby Tsur Hadassah were also impassable.

The Jerusalem-Tel Aviv train service remained in operation.

Municipal workers worked through the night to clear roads in the city, with 250 snow plows deployed and nearly 150 tons of salt spread over roads.

The 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.

Snow falls on Jaffa street in Jerusalem, as a heavy storm hits nationwide, January 26, 2022. Photo by(Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The first flakes began to fall in Jerusalem at around 7:30 p.m. and continued 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.

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.

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.

On Thursday morning, dozens of roads were closed across northern Israel.

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.

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