Many Jerusalemites have taken to the various social media networks in order to chastise the Jerusalem Municipality for shutting down the city in what turned out to be just an icy slush (with intermittent hail).  Though the “mega storm” was a dud, I would like to laud the cautionary efforts made by Mayor Nir Barkat and the Jerusalem  Municipality.

photo by Margalit Cooper

A tractor plows snow in central Jerusalem late Wednesday night. Photo by Margalit Cooper

While North American expats scoffed at how Barkat preemptively closed schools and roads, and reminisced how this amount of precipiation would never have shut down their former cities, teachers and students cheered that they did not have to venture outdoors. Hayley, a teacher, remarked that the storm reveals that “God is on our side, since Shai Piron took away part of our Chanukah vacation.”

After last winter’s “storm of the century”  dumped around two feet of snow on the capital, the city was crippled due to underpreparation. For five days residents were snowed in, cars were abandoned after being stuck on Jerusalem’s treacherous hills, many residents lost power and much property was damaged from fallen trees.

Hosing down the snow after last winter's storm Photo by Daniel Sass

Hosing down the snow after last winter’s storm Photo by Daniel Sass

Some Israelis, with little experience in dealing with snow, decided to “remove” the snow by hosing it down (they should be nomintated for a Darwin award), thus creating a city full of dangerous black ice. Others futiley attempted to remove the snow from their cars using squeegees as a makeshift shovel.

This year, according to the predications made by IMS (Israel Meteorological Service), it looked as though Israel was about to receive another large storm (albeit not quite as large as last year). 10-30 cm of snow was predicted to fall in Jerusalem, yet, due to large winds and cold (but not freezing) temperatures, much of the snow was blown to the north of Israel and Jerusalem was drenched in a thunderous, icy, rain storm.

The Facebook group: Jerusalem Weather Forecasts responded to comments yesterday about the inaccurate predication:

“Weather is certainly a complex thing. It’s huge. We are dealing with low pressure systems the size of cities, ridges that swoop over continents, and troughs that cover countries… Forecasters throughout Israel saw a big storm, and predicted only what they could predict with the tools and knowledge that they had. And yet, astonishingly, the precipitation amounts for this storm have been close to 60% less than forecast, and only 1-2 cm (not inches!) of snow accumulated – much less than any reasonable forecaster in Israel could have foreseen…In the last blockbuster Dec 2013 storm these forecasts predicted half the snow amounts than what actually fell, and were, in short, flat out wrong.”

In the end, schools were shut, pantries were pre-emptively stocked, and supermarkets closed early. I went to Supersol Deal last night at around 11:30 PM only to discover they were shut (On Thursdays, the store is normally open all night).  Based on the knowledge the municipality culled from meterological reports, I think the right call was made, even if it was overly cautious.  As the cliche goes: “Better to be safe than sorry.”