Monday, December 16, 2013

We Survived Jerusalem's Snowstorm of the Century

I know what snow is. I grew up in Sioux City, Iowa, and experienced many blizzards in my childhood. My wife grew up in Ithaca, New York, which had very white winters as well. Living in Israel, we thought that we would escape harsh winters, yet we still have strong memories of the storm that struck the country in 1992, which blanketed our home in Moshav Neve Ilan with half a foot of snow and knocked out the electricity for three days. And then recently, we lived for two years in Bulgaria, where the winters are quite cold and snow is very common.

We didn't know that the worst snowstorm in some 150 years was heading our way. The first snow fell on Thursday morning, but then the storm struck in force overnight, knocking out our power and leaving us without heat as well. We assumed the electricity would go back on right away, but another night of heavy snow hit us.

We are just now recovering from four days without power and heating and beginning to deal with the severe damage caused to our house by a falling tree and a leaking roof.

Moshav Neve Ilan

Although equipped with snow plows and heavy machinery, Jerusalem is not a city prepared for snow. When the snow begins to fall, the entire city shuts down. Buses stop running, schools are closed, and even the new light rail system shuts down. The roads leading into the city are closed off, because of the icy conditions and the many cars that get stuck along the way. This hampers the passage of emergency vehicles, especially those of the Electric Company that need to deal with power shortages that left some 35,000 households around the country in the dark.

My wife and I live on Moshav Neve Ilan, about 15 kilometers to the west of Jerusalem. Our elevation is much lower than Jerusalem. Many times when snow falls in Jerusalem, we are unaffected. Many families on the moshav heat their homes with kerosene or gas, but our main heating source is electricity. After all, who would expect that the power would be out for four days?

Street scene in Neve Ilan
All of the windows in our home have electric shutters, and of course they were down, leaving the interior as dark as a cave. Luckily, we have gas burners on our stove. My wife prepared some fabulous soups and stews which got us through the four days. But the house was very cold, and at many times, colder than it was outside. Needless to say, we didn't have hot water for showers.

The force of the storm's winds knocked over many trees on the moshav and elsewhere around the country, and this brought down electric lines. In our backyard, our big tree was split in half, and some of it fell on our roof. The branch that held our granddaughter's swing was thrown to the ground.

Wires and trees down, blocking a sidewalk near our house.
The major damage we had to our house was caused by leaking roofs, which dripped water through the ceilings of two bedrooms. We had never experienced leaks there before and only recently, we redid the roof over the living room and kitchen (which held out just fine). The heavy weight of the snow (some six inches packed very firmly) and the melt water began dripping into our home.

Against my wife's strong protests, I went onto the snow-covered roof and made sure that the drains were clear. I also scooped off a lot of snow, creating paths for the slush to reach the drains when it melted.

Our most serious problem, though, was seeing our cellular phone batteries run out. We didn't have mobile phones during the storm of 1992, but now this is the only way to communicate with our family members and work colleagues. My wife's i-Phone battery was depleted quickly, but a neighbor recharged it for her in his car. Whenever we received phone calls from concerned friends we responded quickly, "No electricity, low battery, but we're OK." And we saved what little was left of the battery for even greater emergencies.

Many trees were knocked down by the strong winds and heavy snow
On Sunday afternoon, the power was restored to our home. We immediately turned on the hot water, eagerly anticipating our first showers after four days. As of this morning, there are still homes in Jerusalem and elsewhere that do not yet have electricity.

I'm sure that there are those who suffered more than we did during Jerusalem's Snowstorm of the Century, but still, this was an experience that we didn't enjoy.


  1. Terrific!! We don't have snow in Islamabad so i had no idea how a snow storm is. But after going through the pictures and what you have written about it, i can only say its horrible. Scary..
    Glad you are getting back to normal life. Sending love to all the victims from Pakistan.

  2. Yet another great blog. Thank you for sharing it with us all :)

  3. Wow! This is amazing, loved the post.

  4. Oh my!!! Your pictures look like here in Colorado at 7000 feet! Glad things are thawing- thanks for the great pictures!!

  5. WOW here is a link to a heater using a tea light and two clay pots. Works very well in a small room. Great pics. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  6. I'm so glad you posted this link, Ellis -- glad you're okay and that the country is recovering. I dread and fear the power outages (living in Maine) and so I can imagine the difficulties and damage you describe… the darkness from the electric shutters sounds very hard (as does the damage of course). So glad things are improving and hope everyone has power restored soon so the aftermath can be dealt with. Take care.

  7. Oh my! This looks terrible. I can almost imagine what you guys had to go through. Glad to know you and your family's OK, Ellis.