Stormy Weather Wreaking Havoc Across Israel


israeli-bus-floodOne of the stormiest days of winter hit Israel today, leaving traffic backed up and major highways closed to due fear of flooding. Three people – two truck drivers and an 18-year-old – were trapped before dawn in their vehicles near the Paran Stream in the Negev. An Israel Defense Forces helicopter dispatched to the scene managed to pull them out after a few hours.

The Nitzana Bridge, north of the Negev, collapsed due to the heavy storms. All traffic in that area has been stopped.

Due to the weather conditions both the Eilat Airpot and the nearby Ovda airport were shut down. Schools will also be closed in various communities across the Negev.

Highways throughout the Negev, including Route 221 and parts of Routes 90 and 40 were also closed to traffic due to the flooding.

Meteorologists had predicted today to be among the rainiest of the winter, with large quantities expected in the Arava Desert.

Some 12 millimeters of rain had already fallen in Eilat before noon, which is three times the average yearly amount of rain in the city. Between 30-60 cm are expected over the course of the day.

According to the meteorological services company Meteo-Tech, the rain, which was forecast to begin overnight, could amount to between 50 and 100 millimeters.

Rain will fall all day from the Galilee to the Eilat region. The downpour will let up Tuesday and resume on Wednesday, meteorologists say. Snow is expected atop Har Chermon.

Two different weather systems are coming into contact with each other, creating conditions for heavy rains and high winds. Hot, humid air moved in from the equatorial region, while cool air has moved in from Turkey, creating unstable weather conditions.

Temperatures will drop drastically, perhaps by as much as 10 degrees Celsius over 24 hours in hilly regions.

In the past two days forecasters have repeatedly warned of possible flash floods in desert river beds and flooding in the main cities. In Eilat, which is expected to see rain equivalent to four years’ average fall, special preparations are underway and hiking in the region has been banned.

Water officials are waiting expectantly for the rainfall after several mainly dry weeks. Rivers and streams have dried up somewhat but as a result of a strike by Water Authority employees no current data on the state of the country’s reservoirs and aquifers is available.

{Haaretz/Yair Israel}