Saturday, December 14, 2013

‘Worst storm in decades’ batters Jerusalem, Dome of the Rock


Jerusalem on Friday night was in the midst of a storm feared to be “three times worse” than the snows that had hit Thursday and earlier Friday, and much of the rest of the country was grappling with stormy conditions expected to last into Saturday.

In what was described by Channel 2 as the “worst storm in decades,” much of northern Israel was also hit by snow and heavy storms, as were large parts of the West Bank. Israel and the Palestinian Authority were working together to grapple with power outages and other aspects of the storm’s impact.

Israel also providing fuel and gas to Gaza, to keep the electricity on in the Strip, which was grappling with harsh weather conditions including flooding in some areas.

Haifa was hit with its first snowfall in 22 years, according to officials, and Tel Aviv was battered by heavy rain and hail.

Ben Gurion Airport halted operations for 40 minutes to undergo “advanced preparation” for the storm. Some 40 flights did manage to arrive in Israel before the start of Shabbat despite the inclement weather conditions, reported Israel Radio.

Beginning at approximately 16:00pm local time, heavy snow began to fall in the capital after several hours of respite. Municipality officials told The Times of Israel that it would be “three times worse” than the storms of previous days. They urged all residents of Jerusalem and the surrounding areas to stay indoors as weather conditions worsen.

As the city turned white at nightfall, most of the streets were completely empty.

Earlier, the Israel Electric Corporation declared a nationwide state of emergency as tens of thousands of homes in Jerusalem and the surrounding region remained without power amid the severe winter storm besieging the area.

The Mateh Yehuda Regional Council in the Jerusalem district said it was preparing to evacuate thousands of people in the area who have been without power since Thursday night.

The electric company said it was manning a situation room to receive reports of outages and 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 trees and branches.

It remains unclear whether the company will be able to resolve the mass outages as weather conditions worsen, with some reports indicating it may take up to two days for full power to be restored.

Workers were facing difficulties reaching certain areas due to fallen trees and power lines.

“We did not anticipate the storm to be on this scale,” Oren Helman from the electric company told Channel 2 news.

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