Rare blizzard ices over Jerusalem, Middle East

The uncommon winter blizzard has Jerusalem and neighboring countries buried in over 10 inches of snow.
By Alexandra Gratereaux  |  Feb. 20, 2015 at 2:11 PM
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JERUSALEM, Feb. 20 (UPI) -- An uncommon winter blizzard has left Jerusalem and neighboring countries buried in over 10 inches of snow, due to a cold front that hit the Middle East on Thursday and Friday. Reminiscent of the snow storms gripping the East Coast in the United States, the blizzard left many scrambling to purchase gas heaters in countries including Israel, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.

The storm is also affecting many Syrian refugees. In January, one of the worst snow storms to hit Lebanon killed four Syrian refugees, including a 3-month-old baby and a 6-year-old boy, Al Jazeera reported.

Cars have been buried under a thick snow blanket forcing officials to close off roads in Jerusalem. Its desert and the city's popular western wall were engulfed by snow.

Cities such as Jordan's capital Amman and Damascus in Syria were also hit by snow, as were Lebanon's mountain roads and small villages.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat warned the country of the upcoming freezing temperatures expected to hit on Saturday.

"On Saturday the temperatures will go below freezing," Barkat said in a briefing. "It's not an easy challenge."

Some attribute the unusual weather to climate change. Israel has experienced a rise of about two degrees Fahrenheit in temperature over the last 30 years. Amir Givati -- who heads the surface water department at the Israel Water Authority -- says the past two years are proof of the climate changes occurring in Israel.

"On the one hand, we got a long drought period last year when we didn't get any precipitation for months in northern Israel and Jerusalem," he said. "And on the other hand, last year we had this huge snowstorm that occurred in December. . . . The drought was the heaviest for a century. And the snow was also a record for a century."

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