One could almost think that peace has broken out in the Middle East and that the elections next week had been cancelled for the only headlines dominating the news for the last few days has been the unbelievably stormy and wet weather across Israel (and presumably over at least part of the Middle East).
After one of the wettest Decembers on record, followed last week by a full week of glorious sunshine and very cold nights, the stormy weather returned with a vengeance on Shabbat. These last couple of days have been quite an experience for Israeli citizens.
Yesterday floods caused the closure of Herzliya train station, a mini-tsunami hit the Modi’in shopping mall, roads have been flooded or even swept away, and trees and power lines came down throughout the country due to high winds or lightning strikes.
Watch a video of the Modi’in Mall flood (h/t Israellycool).
Here are some amusing pictures from the mall as it was flooded:
Have a look at yesterday’s Times of Israel’s live blog:
A fierce winter storm that has been raging since Friday continued to pound the country Monday, and the Israel Meteorological Service predicts that this week could bring precipitation equal to the average rainfall for the entire month of January. Strong winds and heavy rain swept the country, and the upper region of Mount Hermon was blanketed by a heavy 40-centimeter layer of snow, with 20 centimeters falling overnight. Since the weekend, the Sea of Galilee rose 17 centimeters, and winds of 60-80 km/h (37-50 mph) were reported, with gusts of up to 120 km/h (75 mph).
Today the winds are not quite as strong but the rain has intensified. In my own town of Petach Tikva the traffic is completely snarled; I’ve heard from various family members of their difficulty in getting to work; and the latest headlines now are “Do not travel to Tel Aviv. It’s closed”. As some wit remarked some years ago, “Every few years the Ayalon (a major highway) remembers that it is a river and overflows”.
The Ayalon highway has been closed on both directions from the Glilot interchange to the Kibbutz Galuyot intersection on Tuesday morning due to flooding.
Heavy traffic was recorded in highways 2 and 4 and Traffic Police are calling on Israelis to avoid traveling to Tel Aviv barring an emergency.
Meanwhile, the Tel Aviv Municipality announced Tuesday it was preparing to evacuate residents for fear of floods in the city’s southern and northern neighborhoods.
Police fear that the Ayalon River will overflow and have therefore decided to close the highway – for the first time in a decade. It was further noted that the water level measured at the HaShalom interchanged reached 40 centimeters.
Some (not very) bright sparks decided an inner-tube float down the Ayalon is exactly what is called for on a stormy day like today. :-)
The pictures from the Ayalon are quite amazing:
The source of the Yarkon River is just outside Petach Tikva:
The rainy weather (I won’t call it bad – it’s excellent news for Israel) has affected all parts of the country of course, not just the Tel Aviv region, as the ToI reports:
Route 90 near the Dead Sea was also shut down due to flooding and schools were canceled in the Tamar Regional Council.
Several dry riverbeds in the desert area have experienced flash floods over the last days, with cars being swept away and people needing to be rescued.
The weather also led to road closures in the West Bank. Police blocked off Highways 50 and 66. Highway 443, between Beit Horon and Jerusalem, was reportedly being closed intermittently. Police later reopened the roads.
In the large West Bank settlement of Modi’in Ilit, the overflowing Modi’in stream overtook a southern neighborhood, trapping resident in their homes. A man trying to cross the surge was swept away and rescued by emergency crews.
Israel has experienced heavy rains and wind since the weekend, with flooding and felled trees reported from the Negev to the north. On Sunday and Monday, several train stations along the coast were closed for flooding, as well as the Azrieli mall in the central city of Modi’in.
While flooded roads and downed trees and power lines have made getting around a nightmare, Israel’s largest water reservoir, the Sea of Galilee, has continued to rise, with 22 centimeters of water being added in the last 24 hours, according to Israel Radio.
After several years of dropping water levels, the lake’s water level now sits less than 10 feet below its maximum, with forecasters expecting several more centimeters in the coming days.
Officials in Jerusalem are also preparing for the possibility of snow on Wednesday, as temperatures dip below freezing in the mountainous areas of the country.
Here are some pictures from Jerusalem and elsewhere (from Arutz Sheva Hebrew):
To finish off, click this link to watch this incredible video of a flash flood in Ein Harod. (Sorry, I can’t embed the video). The speed of the water is truly terrifying.
May all our troubles be from the weather, and may all the water be for a blessing.