Rain, Snow, and Cold to Reign Over Shabbos

YERUSHALAYIM -
Children play in the snow on Mount Hermon, December 31, 2015. Photo by Basel Awidat/Flash90
Children play in the snow on Mount Hermon, Thursday. (Basel Awidat/Flash90)

Winter roared into Israel overnight Thursday, and by Friday parts of northern Israel were coated in white – including Tzfas (Safed), where snow began falling early Friday. Given the short Friday and the inevitable traffic snarls that snow on the ground in Israel causes, the Tzfas municipality canceled classes Friday.

So far, schools are open in Gush Etzion, another location where snow tends to accumulate rapidly when a winter storm blows in – but officials are considering sending kids home early, before noon. The storm has so far been more fierce than forecast models predicted, with colder temperatures and higher levels of rainfall than expected. Forecasts indicated that the surface temperature would be too warm to allow for snow accumulation in Gush Etzion, but with the colder temperatures prevailing, officials would rather be safe than sorry.

As far as Yerushalayim is concerned, a revised forecast said that snow was possible late Friday afternoon and Leil Shabbos, as the storm reaches its apex. Shabbos itseld will be cold, although the precipitation should taper off.

Meanwhile, snow has begun to accumulate on the Hermon, with as much as 8 inches (60 cm) falling overnight on the upper reaches of the mountain. Hermon officials made a point of announcing in the media all day Thursday that the site was closed, and that Israelis who desire to see a real snowstorm wait until the site is officially opened. The roads leading to the Hermon are closed, and “no exceptions will be made, even for families with wide-eyed teary children who drove six hours from Be’er Sheva just to get a glimpse of the snow,” said a spokesperson for the Hermon ski site. “It’s just not safe to drive on the roads here until they are cleared, and we are doing everything we can to discourage people from coming up here until that happens.”

The Israel Electric Company (IEC) is on full alert, with crews on call to quickly repair downed electric wires due to heavy winds. There were spotty outages Friday in Gush Etzion and in several towns in the north, but IEC officials said that the problems were quickly resolved, and expressed confidence that they would be able to weather the storm safely.