A wet and cold winter storm hit Israel Thursday morning, bringing welcome rain to much of the country and raising the Sea of Galilee by one centimeter in a matter of hours.

The wet weather was expected to continue through the weekend, with showers and thunderstorms predicted from the north of the country to the southern Negev, providing relief from one of the most parched fall seasons on record.

The Israel Meteorological Service said Thursday morning that it expected “unseasonably low” temperatures, and issued flash food warnings for the Jordan Valley, the Judean Desert and the Dead Sea region. In addition to the rise in the Sea of Galilee, a first snowfall of the season was reported on Mount Hermon overnight Thursday.

In parts of Israel, the 2013 fall season to date was the driest in 55 to 70 years. Some weather stations throughout the country recorded no precipitation at all; others reported levels well below average.

The lack of rain was most pronounced in the north, where similar levels have only been recorded three times in the past: in 1946, 1962 and 2010.

Along with the dry weather came warmer temperatures, as most days of November saw a higher temperature than the seasonal average, and the lowland coastal plain in particular experienced the hottest November in 60 years.

However, the waters of the Sea of Galilee are a whole meter higher than they were on the same date in 2012, attributed in part to the relatively high precipitation last winter compared to the previous year. 

On Wednesday, Israel’s chief rabbis had called on the public to say special prayers due to the lack of rain. Chief Rabbis Yitzhak Yosef and David Lau also called for a mass prayer at the Western Wall on Thursday. The rabbis ruled that the unusually dry winter in Israel matches the definition under Jewish law of a drought.

JTA contributed to this report.