JERUSALEM (JWN)—The biggest news in Israel on Friday occurred in the capital in the early morning, when temperatures dropped below freezing for the first time this winter and turned days of steady rainfall into the city’s first snowfall in four years.
At times the heavy, drifting flakes severely limited visibility and tied up traffic, but most of the city’s roads remained clear. Nevertheless, the local bus system shut down for several hours and roads into the city, especially those linking higher areas, remained blocked until almost midday.
Although intercity bus routes to Jerusalem from the coast were shut down throughout the morning, this did not dissuade hundreds of motorists from making the rare “snow run” to the capital, whose parks, lawns, and gardens were blanketed in white.
Many Jerusalem schoolchildren were rewarded with a rare snow day off from school, which they celebrated in the city’s parks with impromptu sledding and building snowmen.
Elsewhere in the county, the storm that began on Tuesday continued to pile up snow in the North, where Israel’s only ski site on Mt. Hermon had to close down due to too much snow. Snow also fell in the Golan Heights, where school was canceled, as were classes in the Safed area of the Galilee. Public transportation was cut off in both regions.
Just three weeks short of the first day of spring, Friday was expected to be the coldest day of the year, with winds in some places exceeding 100 kilometers an hour. The wind uprooted many huge trees in coastal areas, some of which fell on parked cars and blocked streets; but no injuries were reported.
The storm also disrupted air traffic for several hours, causing the deviation of at least one KLM flight to land in Cyprus instead. The Israel Airports Authority remained on a state of alert for the duration of the storm.
As with any heavy rainfall, the country’s attention turned to the Sea of Galilee, also known as Lake Kinneret, whose level had dropped precariously during years of drought. The level of the lake rose three centimeters over the past two days, with higher levels expected soon from the spring snow runoff from the North.