Israel geared up Sunday for snow, rain and heavy winds later in the week as a wet weekend gave way to a short respite of sunny skies before the expected return of wild weather.
Centimeters of rain soaked the north and the central regions, with the northern town of Metulla getting 40 millimeters of rain over the past two days.
The Sea of Galilee rose a centimeter, reaching 212.83 meters below sea level. As the lowest freshwater lake in the world, and the largest in Israel, even when full the surface level lies around 210 meters below sea level.
Weather experts expected the rain to clear up during the day and remain mostly absent on Monday, but Tuesday would see high winds whip across much of the country. By Wednesday, with temperatures plummeting, snow was expected on Mount Hermon in the Golan Heights and could also fall in the northern city of Safed as well as in Jerusalem and surrounding hills.
The Israel Meteorological Service predicted precipitation across the north and center of the country in the coming days, with heavy winds, isolated sandstorms and a strong likelihood of flash flooding throughout the south.
Some forecasts predicted as much as a foot of snow (30 centimeters) for higher elevations in northern Israel and in the high-altitude Etzion Bloc, south of Jerusalem.
The snowstorm would be the first serious flurry in Jerusalem since the capital was slammed with one of the heaviest winter storms on record in December 2013.
Municipal authorities in Jerusalem on Sunday began pruning dangerous branches on trees in public areas as well as conducting road inspections to look for potential trouble spots, the Hebrew-language Walla news website reported.
Unstable buildings were also being reviewed and the city hall made arrangements with towing services to quickly remove stranded cars to prevent blocked roads.
Firefighters and the municipal water board were both put on alert to deal with any emergencies or flooding in low places where the expected rain might gather.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat ordered city authorities to scour the streets for homeless people who were to be offered safe and warm temporary shelter during the worst of the stormy days. Likewise, youths living on the streets were to be provided a safe place to stay where they would find shelter and warm food.
The Jerusalem municipality posted instructions in its website advising residents to unblock drains, check gutters and inspect heating systems ahead of the storm. The capital’s residents were also urged to prepare shovels, emergency lighting, and food supplies to deal with a worst-case scenario.
In the northern city of Safed, municipal authorities carried out a review of emergency procedures, including ensuring there are enough snowplows and bulldozers to clear streets if there is a heavy snowfall.
New radio equipment and chains for municipal vehicles were also purchased as a precaution. A pamphlet distributed to residents gave instructions on how to prepare households for the storm.
The major rain and snowstorm that blanketed Israel in December 2013 brought down electricity and phone lines and cut off road access to Jerusalem and many surrounding areas. IDF armored personnel carriers were deployed to rescue stranded motorists as authorities struggled to cope with the scale of the damage.