Israel’s first real winter storm is expected to hit this weekend, starting on Thursday with heavy rain, high winds, and snow in high altitudes, and continuing through Friday and Saturday. Snow is predicted for Jerusalem and northern Israel, which usually see at least one large snowfall each winter.
Following an unseasonably warm December, the storm will bring a sharp drop in temperature and high precipitation levels. It is expected to peak on Friday morning, and if snow does fall it will likely happen then. In the south of the country, severe flooding is predicted.
On Wednesday, rain began to fall throughout the country, from Haifa in the north to Beersheba in the south. Near the city of Ashdod, a tornado-like formation could be seen off the coast. According to weather experts, it was not a tornado but a waterspout, a weather phenomenon caused by rotating columns of air over water.
Snow may fall on the northern Golan Heights starting as early as Thursday morning. From there it is predicted to make its way south to the Galilee by evening. Snowfall will continue through Friday, when it will likely reach high-altitude locales like Jerusalem. However, unlike in previous years, snow is not expected to accumulate on the ground.
In central and southern Israel, the storm will not bring snow, but rain, increasing the chance of serious flooding and flash floods in rivers and streams. The winds may raise sandstorms as well.
Historically, Israel has struggled to deal with extreme winter weather, but following several freak storms in recent years, authorities have worked hard to prepare contingency plans. In Jerusalem, the city municipality called an urgent meeting to discuss how to manage a possible snowfall.
Coastal cities, including Tel Aviv, are preparing their drainage systems for the heavy rains that are expected, and readying for high coastal winds.
Police and fire crews throughout the country have raised their alert level and increased deployment. The Israel Electric Corporation called on the public to quickly report any fallen or damaged electrical wires and has mobilized emergency crews in case of outages.
Israel’s first seasonal storm struck over Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, in September, when flash floods wiped out roads and bridges and hail the size of ice cubes fell in the South and the Galilee. Now it seems that Israel will usher in the secular New Year with another bout of extreme weather.