12/14/13. Recovery efforts underway as worst snowstorm in decades dwindles. SHARON UDASIN, DANIEL K. EISENBUD, LAHAV HARKOV, jpost.com
As the storm dwindled to a drizzle on Saturday night, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu reminded Israelis they must continue to exercise caution as workers scramble to repair the enormous damage left behind.
“While the peak of the storm may be behind us, I call on the public to continue listening to instructions from the security and rescue services.
These instructions have saved many lives in recent days,” the prime minister said at a news conference following high-level consultations in Jerusalem. “On behalf of all Israelis, I would like to express great appreciation to the thousands who are continuing to work around the clock in this weather.”
Netanyahu stressed the importance of clearing routes to areas that were still without electricity, and that the priority should be helping the elderly and others in need. He ordered the evacuation of all vehicles blocking access routes to Jerusalem, and vowed to have all of these roads open to normal traffic by Sunday.
Although the storm might be practically over, Netanyahu warned that severe flooding could ensue in many areas.
Four people were killed in storm-related incidents over the weekend. Two bodies, discovered in a flooded creek bed near Arad on Saturday evening, were likely those of two men who had gone missing three days earlier, Marai Elsana and Sharif Elsana. On Saturday morning, an infant boy was killed by a space heater fire in Lod, and a man in Rishon Lezion slipped to his death on Friday night, while trying to fix a leak.
From Wednesday night through Saturday afternoon, approximately 80 centimeters of snow fell in Efrat, 50 centimeters in Safed and 60 centimeters in Har Bracha, near Nablus in the Samarian mountains, an Israel Meteorological Service weather forecaster told The Jerusalem Post on Saturday night.
Areas in Jerusalem ended up receiving between 40 and 50 centimeters of snow, despite predictions that the capital would get up to 1 meter.
Overnight on Saturday, the IMS predicted continued light rain as well as icy road conditions, followed by partly cloudy skies and a rise in temperatures on Sunday. The IMS warned, however, that it would still be unseasonably cold and that there was a chance of light rain along the coast on Sunday morning.
Route 1, the main route between Jerusalem and the coast, was reopened to public transportation only on Saturday night around 11 p.m. Highway 443, the principal alternative route, still had some 400 abandoned vehicles on it, likely precluding it from reopening until Sunday, according to Israel Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld.
Drivers of abandoned cars should wait until Sunday morning to come to the capital to retrieve their vehicles, which would be stored near the entrance to the city, he stressed.
“Our main concern right now is opening the highways for travel again,” he said on Saturday night.
Rosenfeld urged all Jerusalem residents to observe caution in dealing with downed electrical lines and other electrical malfunctions.
Due to fears that the Ayalon River might overflow its banks, the Ayalon Highway – Road 20 – was temporarily shut down on Friday night, but it was reopened within a few hours, when authorities decided the river’s water level had sufficiently receded.
After gaining the approval of the Chief Rabbinate, Israel Railways ran two special trains on Saturday departing from Jerusalem to Haifa, passing through Tel Aviv and other central stations along the way.
As of Saturday night, however, due to overflows of the Shapirim Stream, Israel Railways shut down the section of the train tracks between the Modi’in and Tel Aviv Hagana stations.
The Jerusalem Municipality announced on Saturday that schools and kindergartens would remain closed on Sunday due to the “potential risk” to pupils caused by storm damage. Municipal workers will work on Sunday to fix the damage to educational institutions in the hope that studies will resume on Monday.
Schools in Safed, Peki’in, Beit Jann and other towns in the Upper Galilee and the northern Golan Heights will also be closed on Sunday.
Other closures were reported in Efrat, Gush Etzion, Givat Ze’ev and Mevaseret Zion, and in the Tamar Regional Council in the South.
The Hebrew University in Jerusalem and Ariel University canceled Sunday classes.
The Jerusalem Light Rail will remain closed on Sunday morning. The municipality said it was working to resume its operations as soon as possible.
Electricity returned on Saturday evening to homes on the Golan Heights, the Golan Regional Council said. Others around the country – some those in Jerusalem and Safed – were not as fortunate.
By noon on Saturday, Israel Electric Corporation reported that approximately 35,000 households – or 1.4% percent of the country’s 2.5 million electricity customers – were still without power. About 13,000 of these outages were in Jerusalem, leaving 5.5% of the capital’s residents without power, and 2,400 were in Safed, the company said.
Emphasizing that crews worked throughout the night to restore power to customers, the company said it continued to operate on an emergency basis, and that “it will take a long time to fix problems.”
Broken wires posed life-threatening dangers, it warned.
As of 8 p.m. on Saturday, around 29,000 households were without power, with 9,000 of these customers in Jerusalem and 1,000 in Safed, the IEC said. In Beit Jann, near Mount Meron, approximately 90% of households had power.
Saying the past few days had seen “the most severe snowstorm in the past 150 years in Jerusalem,” the IEC said it was in constant touch with rescue teams and mayors of affected areas. The main problem on Saturday remained access to dozens of sites experiencing blackouts in Jerusalem, Safed and other elsewhere. In many places, access routes were blocked by stranded vehicles as well as collapsed trees and lampposts.
12/13/13. Snow In Egypt For The First Time In 100 Years, Reports Say. Jessica Elgot, huffingtonpost.co.uk
The snow that has blanketed much of the Middle East turned Cairo white on Friday – with local news reports claiming it was Egypt’s capital’s first snowfall in 112 years.
Snow covers the scene in Egypt’s Sinai PeninsulaThe city averages less than an inch of rain each year, and hundreds stopped their walk to work or school to snap pictures of the falling flakes, tweeting their delights.
In Jerusalem, local media reported that schools and roads were closed, and transport suspended after four inches of snow – the most since 1953.
Palestinian and Israeli children shaped clusters into snowmen across the divided capital, with boys shrieking with delight as they put the finishing touches to a frosty man outside the gold-domed Al Aqsa mosque.
“Last week, the chief rabbis asked Jews around the world to pray for rain in Israel since winter had begun with a dry spell,” Jewish online magazine Tablet reported. “Apparently, it worked.”
Snow, sleet and icy winds have covered Syria, Lebanon and Jordan, deepening the troubles of many war refugees, living in freezing tents. Many have melted snow on their stoves, their only source of drinking water.