An unusually powerful storm, complete with howling gales, downpours, and deep snow, made December an exceptionally wet month, with some areas getting nearly an entire winter’s worth of rain in the space of just a few days, according to an Israel Meteorological Service report released on Wednesday.
The wettest place in the country was Kibbutz Or HaNer in Israel’s southwest that saw 464 millimeters (18 inches) of rain during the month of December. Jerusalem was drenched with 270 mm, 250 mm washed down on Tel Aviv, and Haifa weathered 192 mm of rain. In the capital, the precipitation included nearly 50 centimeters (20 inches) of snow.
Most rain fell along the southern coastal areas, which saw an average of 300-400 mm, a figure that is three to four times the annual average for December and nearly equal to the region’s entire average rainfall for the winter.
Likewise, the northern Negev desert region saw three to four times its average for December with 200-250 mm of rain. The central mountain regions saw 250-320 mm of rain, nearly three times the December average.
An unusually parched November was followed by an unseasonably hot start to December with some areas seeing temperatures as high as 30°C (86°F), raising fears of a serious shortage in annual rainfall. However, a few days into the month a heavy storm began, with torrential rain and high winds, followed a week later by the most snow the country has seen since 1992. The elements wrought widespread flooding and damage with closed roads and downed power lines, and left some communities, including the capital Jerusalem, cut off from electricity for extended periods.
The damage caused by the storm was assessed at over NIS 120 million ($34 million), according to Israel Radio. Officials from the Finance Ministry said at the time that the Treasury would look into covering some of the costs incurred by municipalities in dealing with the consequences of the storm, such as floods and damage to infrastructure. Agricultural damage was put at NIS 100 million.
The damage shocked authorities and prompted several Knesset committees to hold special meetings last month to examine the country’s preparedness for severe winter weather at various local and national levels.