Thursday, January 31, 2008

sneeuwstormen leggen openbaar leven Jeruzalem plat

Rare snow blankets the Holy City of Jerusalem

A winter storm which was forecast several days ago arrived in Jerusalem on Wednesday, blanketing the Holy City with a rare covering of snow. The Israeli weather service said up to 20cm (8inches) of snow fell in the city.

It was an unfamiliar scene on Wednesday as streets were left deserted during what would normally be a busy rush hour. With the streets left buried by several centimetres (inches) of snow, few cars ventured on the roads and public transport was forced to operate on a reduced service. As schools closed for the day children across Jerusalem rushed out to enjoy playing in the rare treat of snow.

While snow is unusual in Jerusalem itself, as temperatures seldom fall low enough for it to settle, other parts of the country regularly see snowfalls. Israel was not alone on Wednesday, with neighbouring countries such as Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and also the Mediterranean island of Cyprus held under the grip of icy weather. Snow closed roads into the Jordanian capital of Amman, and schools and businesses closed as the Jordanian government declared Wednesday a public holiday. There were also road closures in the Syrian capital, Damascus.

Meteorologists expected the cold front that hit the Middle East countries to last at least into today. Meanwhile back in the UK, heavy snow, drifting snow and blizzards are forecast to hit the country from Friday onwards. Areas most at risk are northern and western Scotland and Northern Ireland from early tomorrow, the risk then extending across western parts of England and Wales.