As the great storm that hit Israel reached its peak, residents of Jerusalem and high elevation communities across the country woke up on Thursday to find their towns covered in white.
Shortly before 5 am, the Jerusalem Municipality announced a snow day for the city's schools and pre-schools, joining various West Bank settlements that had already cancelled school activities for the day.
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All roads to Jerusalem were blocked due to the storm and the inner-city traffic was sparse early on Wednesday. Highway 443 was re-opened to traffic around 11:00 am but Highway 1 remained closed from Ben Shemen to Jerusalem in both directions.
Peres and a snowman in the capital (Photo: Gidon Sharon)
The public transportation systems in the capital were paralyzed in the morning and the municipality asked residents to refrain from driving their cars as numerous vehicles have already gotten stuck and were obstructing the movement of snowplows. Light Rail service was restored around 10 am.
The City of Gold has been covered in white since Wednesday night.
In northern Israel, the road to Safed was briefly closed, and for the first time in a decade, snow fell in Nazareth Illit. Snow also piled up in the Golan Heights, although northern highways were reported open early on Thursday afternoon.
J'lem on Thursday (Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg)
The snowstorm has also hit the southern town of Dimona, where school activities have also been cancelled on Thursday, and additional areas in the south saw flurries as well.
Precipitation was expected to decrease throughout Thursday and although temperatures were set to drop farther, the storm was expected to conclude by Saturday.
Flurry in Dimona (Photo: Herzel Yosef)
Dimona playground (Photo: Sagi Amit)
"This cold snap will reach its peak," Meteo-Tech meteorologist Nachum Malik said. "All of northern Israel will see snowfall – all the mountains in the north and center of the country, which are 600 meters (about 1,970 feet) tall. There is a chance of light snow in the Negev Mountains. The rest of the country is expected to receive sporadic rainfall, thunderstorms and hail.
Snowstorm in Golan Heights (Photo: Benny Deutsch)
"On Friday morning there will be local rains in the northern and central parts of the country. The skies will later partly clear but it will remain cold... On Saturday, the weather will be pleasant and temperatures will rise," said Malik.
Community reeling from flood
Meanwhile, the Bat Hefer communal settlement near Netanya was still reeling on Thursday after the Nablus River flooded the town two days before. Neighbors whose homes were unharmed brought warm food and clothes to the local youth center, where some evacuees were temporarily placed. Others whose houses were damaged had to stay with family and friends.
Unprecedented flooding in Bat Hefer (Photo: Ido Erez)
"It is so unbelievable that I feel like crying. The center is overfilled with people whose houses are covered in water and mud. People are just looking for ways to give," a Bat Hefer resident told Ynet.
"Everyone is helping out and families are hosting each other. For each person in need there are four who offer help. Even when times are hard, there are always amazing people in this crazy country," another resident added.
Emek Hefer Mayor Rani Idan told Ynet of the serious property damages caused by the storm: "About 450 houses have been hit, 100 of them seriously. Some 300 homes still don't have electricity."
Disaster zone (Photo: AFP)
While some of the homes were expected to be put in order during the day, most of the houses will need to be fundamentally renovated, he added.
"On Wednesday more than 100 vehicles were evacuated from the community. We estimate that the cost of damage will reach NIS 30-40 million ($8-$11 million). We hope that the government will assist us in compensating the residents because this is a disaster of previously unknown proportions."
Noam (Dabul) Dvir, Hassan Shaalan and Raanan Ben-Zur contributed to the report
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