The Washington Post

Unusual December snowstorm strikes Middle East, Jerusalem shutdown

People build a snowman in front of the Dome of the Rock in the compound known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount, in Jerusalem’s Old City December 12, 2013. Snow fell in Jerusalem and parts of the occupied West Bank where schools and offices were widely closed and public transport was paused. (REUTERS/Ammar Awad)

A major winter storm has laid down a rare early December blanket of snow in many parts of the Middle East. In Jerusalem, schools, roads, and businesses were closed, after over 4 inches fell this morning – the most in December in 60 years.

Related: Rare snow storm blankets Jerusalem

“Weather conditions on Thursday led to road blockages throughout the country, perhaps most notably shutting down a portion of Road 1 – the main thoroughfare from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem – during the late morning,” writes the Jerusalem Post.

According to the Web site Haaretz, this December snowfall is the heaviest in Jerusalem since 1953.

“December snowfalls are quite rare in Israel and occur only once every five to seven years, the [Israeli Meteorological Service] said,” adds the Jerusalem Post. “In almost all cases of snowfall since 1950, Jerusalem’s bounties were light, not exceeding 1-2 cm.”

A Jerusalem resident offered this account of the situation on – a forum for meteorologists and weather hobbyists – at 12:20 p.m. local time today:

The snow has been exceeding all expectations so far. The city is pretty much shut down, from the bus system, government institutions and schools due to the cold air arriving earlier than predicted and a large batch of precip that pummeled the city for about 4 hours. As of now, I’d say we have already accumulated close to 4 inches on grassy surfaces and obviously less on the streets. It was a wet snow too, so there’s been some melting as the radar clears and while we are waiting for the next big batch. There are only 100 plows in this city, so its pretty astonishing how the city is able to handle something like this.

More snow is possible tonight through Saturday in Jerusalem, due to a strong, slow-moving area of low pressure moving inland from the Mediterranean Sea.

Left- Weather forecast map showing low pressure just west of Israel at 7 p.m. this evening local time. ( Right: Simulation of total precipitation through Saturday night (


This is the third snowstorm in Jerusalem in three winters, whereas the city only averages snow every 5 to 7 years according to the Jerusalem Post.

Related: Snow blankets parts of Middle East, Jerusalem (PHOTOS – from January 2013)

Snow, wind and frigid temperatures have also gripped parts of Lebanon and Syria – exacerbating the suffering of Syrian war refugees, many living in tent settlements.

Writes the World Bulletin:

A storm named Alexa is sweeping across Syria and Lebanon, bringing with it high winds and freezing temperatures – and marking the beginning of the third winter since the Syrian conflict began in March 2011.

The snow wreaked havoc across the region and grounded the start of a humanitarian airlift that was meant to start bringing supplies from Iraq into the northeastern Kurdish areas of Syria, where tens of thousands of people have been out of reach.

Syrian refugees play with snow during a winter storm in Zahle town, in the Bekaa Valley December 11, 2013. The worst of winter is yet to come for 2.2 million refugees living outside Syria and millions more displaced inside the country. A storm named Alexa is sweeping across Syria and Lebanon, bringing with it high winds and freezing temperatures – and marking the beginning of the third winter since the Syrian conflict began in March 2011. In the tented settlement a few kilometres from the border in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, more than 1,000 people live in rudimentary shelters. (REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir)

Adds the Washington Post’s William Booth:

“…the United Nations said it was “extremely concerned” for refugees from the brutal civil war in neighboring Syria. Some areas of Lebanon, Turkey and northern Syria were battered overnight Tuesday by snow, sharp winds and cold, heavy rains, causing misery for hundreds of thousands of Syrians in camps and shanties.”


Jason is currently the Washington Post’s weather editor. A native Washingtonian, Jason has been a weather enthusiast since age 10.
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Jason Samenow · December 12, 2013

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