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Mideast Snowstorm Blankets Turkey as Israel Braces for Blizzard

Tuesday, 06 Jan 2015 09:59 AM

(Bloomberg) -- Turkish Airlines canceled 44 flights and Israeli authorities prepared to close the main highway to Jerusalem as a cold front threatened to bury parts of the Middle East in snow.

Schools were closed in Istanbul and many of the ferries that connect Turkey’s Asian and European sides were stopped because of choppy waters in the Bosporus strait, the governor’s office said. Nine-meter (30-foot) waves crashed against Tel Aviv’s Mediterranean coast as the nation braced for a massive storm predicted by the National Meteorological Service.

“We’re anticipating a blizzard tomorrow and we’re working very closely with the forecasters,” Jerusalem municipal spokeswoman Brachie Sprung said in a phone interview. “Thousands of cars were stuck in last year’s snowstorm and we’re not going to let that happen again.”

Memories of widespread damage and power outages in the winter of 2014 has emergency crews mobilizing throughout Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, the West Bank and Golan Heights. Heavy snow fell today in Istanbul and elsewhere in Turkey, with other parts of the region expecting the brunt of the storm to follow tomorrow.

Israel’s police, army, electric company and city crews are on alert to prevent power cuts and snow-choked roads if forecasts are borne out. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu joined a meeting on contingency plans today with Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, police authorities and representatives of Israel Electric Co.

The U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv advised travelers to monitor weather conditions and consider deferring non-essential travel from Jan. 5 to Jan. 10.

As many as 60,000 homes were left without power for up to three days last year and thousands abandoned cars as snow buried Route 1, the mountain road leading to Jerusalem.

The snow also blanketed the Palestinian cities of Bethlehem and Ramallah, while flooding in the streets led many Gaza City residents to flee their homes in boats.

Top regional stories:TOP MIDEAST <GO> More stories on Mideast Weather: TNI MIDEAST WEA <GO> Israel Daybook: NI ISRAELDAY <GO>

To contact the reporters on this story: Jonathan Ferziger in Tel Aviv at jferziger@bloomberg.net; Onur Ant in Ankara at oant@bloomberg.net To contact the editors responsible for this story: Alaa Shahine at asalha@bloomberg.net Ben Holland, Karl Maier

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Tuesday, 06 Jan 2015 09:59 AM
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