By Yotam Rozenwald
Israel is preparing for the first snow storm of the 2015 winter. Meteorologists predict that this year’s storm will reach its peak on Wednesday morning, January 7, covering Jerusalem and the Benjamin region, and then spreading south to the mountains of Gush-Etzion and Hebron.
Snow is expected to fall throughout Wednesday night, and will dwindle on Thursday. The cold weather will include rain, snow, strong winds and freezing temperatures, and is expected until Sunday morning of next week, with the possibility of light snows falling on the weekend.
In an effort to improve the public’s response to the snow, Israeli authorities published instructions for the general public earlier this week, recommending stocking food and water, equipping houses with non-electric heating elements and avoiding any unnecessary drives or leaving of one’s home. Jerusalem mayor, Nir Barkat, announced on Monday, January 5, that major roads to Jerusalem will be blocked on Wednesday morning, in an attempt to prevent one of last year’s main problems, where people got stuck in their cars while travelling to the capital’s entrance.
Gilad Sade, an Israeli survival instructor who works with rescue units and IDF Special Forces, volunteered during last year’s storm and provided much needed assistance to local authorities in the Jerusalem area.
Sade told Tazpit News Agency that many Israelis got stuck on roads leading to Jerusalem, because they wanted to catch a glimpse of the snow. “The authorities’ failure to cope with the hazards of harsh weather is understandable due to the fact that Israel is not used to extremely cold weather”.
Last year’s December snow, which fell over four days, from December 10–14, was considered a national disaster in Jerusalem, having forced the city’s shops, businesses, schools and roadways to shut down, accumulating up to NIS 300 million in losses. Local authorities also had difficulties coping with the harsh weather conditions.
The 2013 ‘Alexa’ storm generated heavy snows in the high mountain terrains of Jerusalem, the Golan Heights, the Galilee, the Judea Mountains and Samaria. In Jerusalem, the snow mounted up to 50-70 centimeters in some neighborhoods, and Gush-Etzion experienced up to 120 centimeters of snow. The weather was so harsh during the storm that power shortages were frequent throughout the country, some lasting for several days. Villages located on high mountain terrain were blocked and isolated by snow, and all major roads to Jerusalem were blocked completely. The IDF assisted local authorities, providing Armored Personal Carriers to open roads.