|Heavy rain fell from the North to the Negev overnight Saturday, with the stormy winter weather expected to continue on Sunday and throughout the week. Forecasters expect the coming week to be one of the rainiest in recent memory with some 100 millimeters of rain expected in central Israel and as much as 250mm. expected to fall in the North. Mount Hermon is also expected to see continued snowfall throughout the week. Melting snow from Mount Hermon and the Golan will add some 30 centimeters to Lake Kinneret, according to forecasts.The Israel Meteorological Service said that snow could fall in Jerusalem as well on Wednesday. Authorities warned the public to prepare for winds up to 100 km/h on Sunday evening, especially in coastal areas. The advised tying down or taking inside garden items that could be swept up in the wind. The Israel Electric Company instructed the public to keep heating thermostats at 18 degrees Celsius to prevent causing power surges and electrical outages.
As lights flickered and falling tree branches batted down power lines across the country on Monday, Israelis continued to brace themselves for a week of torrential rains and thunderous winds. Showers and storms pounded nearly all of Israel, with extremely strong winds – of up to 85 kilometers per hour from the North down to Beersheva, decreasing to about 65 kilometers per hour in the Arava and 35 kilometers per hour in Eilat, according to Israel Meteorological Services (IMS). Snow continued to fall over the Hermon, closing the area’s ski resort, and temperatures dropped to colder than usual all over the country. Ongoing flooding plagued coastal towns, as well as risks of flash floods in riverbeds of the South, Jordan Valley and the Judean Desert, the IMS said. As in previous winters, Modi’in’s Azrieli Mall was completely flooded on the first floor, causing police and firefighters to evacuate all the stores. Eyewitnesses described water streaming into the mall, creating a veritable river through the building. No one was injured and shoppers left the building without incident.
“Stormy weather caused flooding to the municipal drainage system, leading to the overflow of water in some areas of the mall,” an official response from the Azrieli Group said, as of Monday afternoon. “To ensure the safety of visitors, in the coming hours the mall shall be drained of water and will reopen as usual.” In Jerusalem, firefighters scrambled to deal with downed trees, some of which fell against electricity towers, causing damage. Firefighters also cleared away downed antennas and trees that had fallen on cars across the municipality, as periods of rain alternated with bouts of hail. In a rather empty Mahaneh Yehuda shuk, merchants cheered, mostly with boredom, every time the hail started to pound earnestly on the plastic roofs of the shuk, creating an incredible racket. A resident of one older apartment in Nachlaot said she rushed around trying to mop up leaks with towels as the wind tore her balcony roofs to shreds. If the storm maintains its current intensity over the week, Jerusalem may experience snow on Wednesday, the IMS has predicted. The municipality said that it is therefore increasing preparations for the possibility of snow. Similar episodes have likewise already rattled the city of Tel Aviv-Yafo, with 217 problematic events already taken care of by the city by midday Monday. The municipality had treated four flooded apartments, seven flooded yards, one flooded land plot, 55 fallen trees and branches, 21 road obstacles, 20 fallen lights and signs, 13 holes, 11 blocked antennas, three sewage issues, 10 fallen building parts, five fallen roof objects, 16 torn electricity cables, one fallen fence, four road erosion incidents, 20 problematic road puddles and five incidents with Bezeq, the city said.
In addition, the municipality warned drivers and pedestrians that there are faults in traffic light systems in many parts of the city. Also, at a building site at the corner of Rothschild Boulevard and Nahalat Binyamin, a crane had fallen and hit glass of the building next door, according to the city. The total amounts of rain for this storm thus far were 16 millimeters in central Tel Aviv, 13.1 millimeters in Ramat HaHayal and 9.3 millimeters at Sde Dov Airport, as of midday Monday. In anticipation of the storm, the municipality had been making constant preparations for the potential ravages of the stormy weather and has increased the presence of its operational teams as well as social services staff to distribute blankets and hot drinks to the homeless. In the past few years, the city has been giving increased priority to preventing flooding during the winter season, particularly with the entire overhaul of the urban drainage and sewage systems in most parts of the city. The municipality is also working in cooperation with the Ayalon Highway Company, to handle the possibilities of flooding on the Ayalon, the city added. As a precaution, the municipality stressed that residents should make sure there are no objects on their terraces that could fly off in the strong winds, as well as ensure that all walls are maximally strengthened. Swimming at beaches where rescue services do not operate is absolutely prohibited, the municipality stressed.
In order to be as prepared as possible, the city increased all of its operational teams – including those responsible for handling flooding, falling trees, potholes, traffic light systems, as well as the fire department. Prior to the onset of the storm, the city checked all of its tunnel systems, dried open drainage ditches, fenced off construction sites, pruned tree branches, treated coastal cliffs, plugged potholes and sinkholes, printed guidelines for the public and more, according to the municipality. Anyone requiring assistance should contact the municipality at *106, the city added. Just north of Tel Aviv, the Herzliya train station, which had been closed since midday Sunday due to flooding, began operating once again at about 12:30 p.m. on Monday, a spokeswoman from Israel Railways said. The company, however, warned travelers that trains would be moving slowly due to the weather throughout the duration of the storm. Outside of the Jerusalem and Tel Aviv regional hubs, the Health Ministry warned that due to the possibility of contaminated storm run-off mixing with drinking reservoirs, residents near the Dead Sea – including Almog, Kalya, Beit HaArava, Avnat, Vered Yericho, and tourist sites in the area – should boil their water for a minimum of two minutes until further notice. In cooperation with the regional council as well as Mekorot National Water Company, the ministry said it would continue to conduct testing. In the West Bank, heavy rain and lightning damaged 19 houses on Monday in the Al-Janeed area, west of Nablus, causing considerable damage to the properties, Palestinian news agency Ma’an reported. Torrential rain also fell from Sunday into Monday in Tulkarm, flooding homes and roads throughout the town, according to Ma’an.
While much of the country faced the inconveniences – and sometimes dangers – of the storm, Lake Kinneret was reaping its benefits. By Monday morning, the Kinneret basin’s level was at 211.72 meters below sea level, 10 centimeters below that of the morning before and still 2.92 meters from being full. Throughout the country since morning hours, Israel Electric Company teams were working in the field to fix the damage caused to the power grid lines thus far by the storm. The teams were operating around the clock in harsh weather conditions, under strong winds, rain, cold temperatures and mud, to correct the localized electricity glitches and return people to full power supplies as soon as possible, the IEC said. Most of the damage caused by the storm thus far was related to tree branches collapsing on power lines, causing them to tear, according to the company. The IEC reminded the public to make use of its service and information center at *103, which is at the moment only responding to calls about storm-related electricity problems. Emergency teams have been prepared on high alert for a number of days already with lifting platforms, vehicles and cranes, so the company encouraged the public to be vigilant about reporting damages to the grid. Updated information is also available on the IEC’s website as well as its Facebook page, the company added.
It is likewise crucial that the public take certain safety precautions, such as removing storage units that can fly away from balconies and hit electrical wires, and make sure that window shutters are connected properly to the buildings, the IEC said. In addition, if there are broken electrical wires in the street, it is critical to refrain from touching them due to risk of electrical shock. Any torn wires should be reported immediately to the IEC at *103 or to the police, the company stressed.