Middle East Snowstorm- December 2013

The current snowstorm has made me realize just how vulnerable and dependent we are. We depend on routine. Breaking it is havoc.

This week we were hit with the heaviest snowstorm Israel has seen since 1950. The last time this amount of snow fell in Israel in December was 1878. Even the Pyramids in Egypt, a country which is mostly desert, were coated in white, something that hasn’t happened in 112 years. Estimates say that Jerusalem had at 40-65 cm (16-26 inches) of snow. Higher mountains in the area had more.

Last year I posted about the beauty of seeing Jerusalem in white. It doesn’t happen every year, and it’s one of the perks of living in Jerusalem, as opposed to living on the coast, where most of Israel’s population is concentrated.

This is my seventh winter in Jerusalem and my claim that it doesn’t snow here often is slowly falling apart, based on the past two years. My photo album can attest to snowstorms in January 2013, March 2012, March 2008, January 2008 and March 2007. Most of those storms were rather tame. They left almost as soon as they came, the snow was barely deep enough for snow fights and they left minimal damage. Last year’s storm was relatively fierce, but it was nothing compared to this year’s storm.

The snow began to fall on Thursday morning. I told my boss that I wouldn’t be coming in to work that day and I’m glad I did that. By the end of the day I would have had no way to get home. The snow quickly piled up and regular life in Jerusalem slowly ground to a halt. Buses stopped running. The light-rail closed down as well. The snow continued on and off throughout Friday and Saturday. The roads that were cleared were quickly covered over again.

The fluffy white covering on everything afforded a lot of fun and beauty. I had two full-fledged snow-fights with friends and built a snow frog (because snowmen are too regular…) and took some pretty nice photos. But the devastation caused by the storm was enormous.

My snow frog.

My snow frog. One of his eyeballs rolled out today, but some friends who passed by patched him up.

Tens of thousands of people in Jerusalem and the surrounding settlements spent Shabbat, the Jewish Sabbath without electricity, heating or warm food. In the more isolated places, people began running out of dry clothing, candles and even food. Four Israelis lost their lives in accidents related to the storm. A friend of mine gave birth to a beautiful baby girl in the storm, after, according to her “an ambulance and a miracle” helped them get to hospital.

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Satelite image of the region. The vertical smudge of white in the center is Judea and Samaria. Jerusalem is at the center of that smudge.

The number of broken trees in the neighborhood is unbelievable. There is 1/3 of a tree leaning on our power line across the street. How it didn’t cut the line when it fell is beyond me.

Tree on our power line.

Tree on our power line.

Although the storm ended by Saturday night, the roads have been covered in ice ever since. A trip to Tel-Aviv that I was supposed to make yesterday was postponed to today, because only some of the buses worked for only 2 or 3 hours yesterday. The roads in and out of Israel’s largest and capital city were opened and closed intermittently throughout the day. Today, I was supposed to make my trip to Tel Aviv early in the morning, but there was no public transportation inside Jerusalem until late morning, and even then not in my neighborhood, and the police have asked the public to refrain from driving in private vehicles. I spent the morning breaking up the ice in front of my building instead.

Schools have been closed since Friday. The Hebrew University has been closed as well. This morning they still claimed that classes would resume at noon, but when no public transportation was in the horizon and with the parking lots at the university covered in snow, the university reluctantly admitted defeat and cancelled classes today and tomorrow.

I don’t know if there will be buses before noon tomorrow either. I plan to walk to work if there’s no bus (should take 30-40 minutes). Enough is enough.

Last year, it took two weeks for the city to remove all the branches from our street. I’m wondering how long it’ll take this year.

On the bright side, Luna, our dog really enjoys snow. She likes to roll in it and eat it and catch snowballs in her mouth. She was obviously born in the wrong climate.

And some photos are in order.

A fallen branch, the first of many.

A fallen branch, the first of many.

Luna stares out into the snow.

Luna stares out into the snow. The tree in the background later lost three large branches.

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Luna rolls in the snow.

Luna rolls in the snow.

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The entrance to our building on Friday morning

The entrance to our building on Friday morning

A fallen tree in the local playground.

A fallen tree in the local playground.

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There's a car under there somewhere.

There’s a car under there somewhere. As well as an electric cable (!)

And under there

And under there

Friday afternoon

Friday afternoon

A night of mist and ice. Saturday night.

A night of mist and ice. Saturday night.

Mist and ice. I'm wondering how long it'll take for the rule of walking on the sidewalk to be 'reinstated'.

Mist and ice. I’m wondering how long it’ll take for the rule of walking on the sidewalk to be ‘reinstated’.

An entire tree fell across Marcus Street.

An entire tree fell across Marcus Street.

As far as we could tell, at least one car is underneath.

As far as we could tell, at least one car is underneath.

And yet another one.

And yet another one.

And now for some beauty.

And now for some beauty.

At the Jerusalem Theatre

At the Jerusalem Theatre

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Sadly, I haven’t had as much time as I would like lately for updating this blog. I’ve started a new job and a new degree which, combined, are eating up most of my time. Next semester should be slightly easier. In the meantime, I do post short updates, photos and links to other sources on the blogs facebook page. Go in and like it for more frequent news from Israel.

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6 comments

  1. Beautiful pictures! But apparently you are not getting Al Gore’s global warming memos. 🙂 Here in Texas though I’m enjoying your pictures while experiencing much warmer weather.

    1. Thanks!
      As for Al Gore, I’m sure we’re still within statistical error. If we have another storm like that this year, I might start worrying that we’re entering a new ice age, though. 🙂

  2. Great post! I wanna hear more about those snowball fights- who won?? ;-P

    1. Thanks EJ!
      I won the snow fights, of course. As I recall, one of them ended in you being covered and white and lying on your back in the snow… ;P

  3. Nah, that was just a tactical position for camouflage and energy conservation purposes…

    1. Sure it was…

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