Traffic resumed in both directions of Tel Aviv’s main highway, the Ayalon freeway, on Tuesday afternoon, hours after the road was closed along with other major arteries due to heavy rains that caused waters to rise near road-level.
In the morning, police closed both northbound and southbound lanes of the Ayalon, or Route 20, from the Glilot interchange to the Kibbutz Galuyot exit, spanning the entire length of Israel’s commercial capital.
Amid the wettest start to an Israeli winter in years, police said heavy rains caused the water to rise rapidly and led them to close the lanes for fear that the river would overflow onto the road.
The highway, running along the diverted riverbed of the Ayalon River, has experienced flooding in the past, including in 2003 and 1993. Police had initially said that the road could be closed for up to 48 hours as rainfall is expected to continue until Thursday.
The flow of traffic also resumed in other roads in the center of the country that were closed since morning due to the flooding and heavy rain, including Namir Road, another major north-south artery.
The Yarkon River, which runs from the sea through the city’s northern neighborhoods, also overflowed, endangering the Bavli neighborhood.
Train schedules were still disrupted due to the weather, police said. The Herzliya train station, just north of Tel Aviv, reopened on Tuesday afternoon. It been closed since Sunday due to flooding.
Train tracks in Tel Aviv run alongside the Ayalon Highway.
Near Taibe in the center of the country, five men were trapped on the roof of a car that was swept away in the Alexander stream. MDA teams and soldiers were working to extract them.
In Baqa al-Gharbiya, an Arab town near Haifa, an Israeli Air Force crew was extracting 15 people who were stranded on the roof of a house.
Route 90 near the Dead Sea was also closed due to flooding, and class was canceled in schools 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 requiring rescue.
At Ben-Gurion International Airport, officials began planning for the possibility that the runways would flood. Israel Radio reported that emergency arrangements have been made for planes to land at Uvda airport, near the southern resort town of Eilat, should the need arise. Uvda is about a four hour drive from Ben-Gurion.
The weather also led to road closures in the West Bank. Police blocked off Highways 50 and 66, and 4311. Highway 443, between Beit Horon and Jerusalem, was closed intermittently. Police later reopened the roads.
Route 65 in the north was also temporarily closed after several cars were stuck in flood waters. In Kiryat Yam, near Haifa, firefighters extracted a taxi-driver after his cab became stuck in a flooded road.
In the large West Bank settlement of Modi’in Ilit, the overflowing Modi’in stream overtook a southern neighborhood, trapping residents in their homes. A man trying to cross the surge was swept away and rescued by emergency crews. A boy who was swept downstream was also pulled from the water.
In March of 2012, heavy rains caused the stream to swell and a 7-year-old was swept away and drowned.
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 was 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 gladdened Israelis by continuing 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.
The wintry weather is expected to subside on Thursday.