Israelis bundle up after heaviest snow in half a century

Up to 12 inches had fallen in Jerusalem by last Friday.

The heaviest snow covered Mount Hermon in the Golan, where more than 6-1/2 feet accumulated on the lower slopes with drifts of nearly 23 feet on the peak by Saturday. The ski site was open and thousands of visitors made their way there.

Wherever the snow accumulated children had an extra day off school last Friday despite the end of the teachers strike.

For the most part, the weather proved less troublesome than had been feared, apart from the traffic jams to and from Jerusalem and to northern Israel on Saturday caused by the tens of thousands of visitors from warmer regions who wanted to play in the snow.

Still, at least four people died across Israel in weather-related accidents and dozens had to be treated for hypothermia.

In Tirat Carmel, a man died in a fire in his mobile home apparently caused by an electric heater, and another man was killed when the roof of his home collapsed under the weight of snow in Ras al-Amud. Two homeless people were reported to have died from the cold in Tel Aviv and Rehovot.

Scores of Israelis and Palestinians stranded on Highway 60 near the tunnel road in Gush Etzion and between Karmei Tsur and Beit Umar on the night of Jan. 27 were evacuated by Israel Defense Force troops.

The IDF distributed blankets and medication and the clinic personnel treated 60 people for frostbite.

On the night of Jan. 27, a few dozen soldiers were stranded overnight in Betar Ilit and hundreds more wound up sleeping in the Tel Aviv Central Bus Station after bus transport to the capital was canceled.

Water experts said the swollen Jordan River and its tributaries, as well as streams leading from the Galilee and the Golan, would further boost the still-depleted Lake Kinneret.

In other regions of the country, the main story last week was heavy rain, which caused flooding in many low-lying areas, especially in Haifa and parts of the Galilee.

A number of homes in Tel Aviv's southern neighborhoods were flooded for the third time this winter. More than 170 people were evacuated to community centers.