The Jerusalem Municipality said that the city was expected Friday afternoon to be hit by a wave of stormy conditions “three times worse” than what has been experienced so far since late Thursday night. Beginning at approximately 16:00 pm local time, municipality officials told The Times of Israel that it was urging all residents of the capital and the surrounding areas to stay indoors as weather conditions worsen.
“We are expecting a second storm triple the size of the one we’ve seen now and possibly up to 20 inches of snow,” said municipality spokesperson Brachie Sprung Friday at 1:30 p.m. “During the storm the highways will remain closed and all public transportation services will be suspended.”
The Israel Electric Corporation declared a nationwide state of emergency Friday as tens of thousands of homes in Jerusalem and the surrounding region remained without power amid the severe winter storm currently besieging the area.
The electric company said it was manning a situation room to receive reports of outages and was calling in emergency workers to help restore power to those affected in certain parts of Jerusalem, Mevasseret Zion, Har Adar, Abu Gosh and Tzur Hadassah where many power lines were hit by fallen trees. “We did not anticipate the storm to be on this scale,” Oren Helman from the electric company told Channel 2 news.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat turned to IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz and Jerusalem District police chief Yossi Pariente for help in evacuating the motorists. "We are currently using all means available to save the people stuck in the storm. Only after the weather calms will we be able to open all of the roadways in the city," Barkat said Fridaymorning, adding that the city was facing "a battle against a rare storm, the likes of which we have never seen."
Earlier Friday, Ben Gurion Airport closed briefly as the unprecedented winter storm — bringing the heaviest December snows on record to Jerusalem — continued to batter the country for a third day.
Two incoming flights initially rerouted to Larnaca, Greece were set to land in Tel Aviv. Police instructed citizens Friday to stay indoors and avoid driving on roads, citing life-threatening dangers. The main arteries leading in to and out of Jerusalem, Highway 1 and Road 443, were closed off after thousands of people were left stranded overnight Thursday-Friday by the heavy snowfall, leading the IDF, the police and volunteers to launch rescue operations. Police said Friday morning that a rescue operation on Road 443 was completed, after rescuers evacuated some 600 travelers from that route.
Crews worked throughout the night and into the morning to rescue travelers in cars and buses trapped on the roads, at one point putting out a public call for help from anybody with a 4X4 vehicle. Around 2,000 people were rescued from vehicles during the night, according to Israel Radio, and hundreds were evacuated to shelters set up at convention centers in the city, including the International Convention Center, or Binyanei Hauma. The Defense Ministry said it was sending emergency generators and meals to those currently at the centers.
On Thursday, the IDF’s elite 669 search and rescue unit retrieved 10 trapped passengers from a commercial vehicle that was swept away by flood waters in Nahal Gerar, north of Beersheba. The passengers, nine of whom were children, were airlifted to Beersheba’s Soroka Medical Center in fair condition.
Over 24 hours between Wednesday and Thursday morning, some 103 millimeters (four inches) of rain — the monthly average — fell in the capital and 35 mm (1.4 inches) in Tel Aviv. There were several incidents of people caught in flash floods that swept their cars away.
The stormy weather was expected to persist into the weekend, with snow reaching elevated areas as far south as the Negev Desert on Friday. On Wednesday, high winds, torrential rain and floods inflicted damage in many areas, with some injuries caused by flying debris.
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