Braving storm warnings, 70,000 Israelis flock to national parks

Braving storm warnings, 70,000 Israelis flock to national parks

Thousands visit sites near Dead Sea, where weather service predicts flooding from rainfall accompanying rare storm; clocks in Israel turn back overnight

A beach in Tel Aviv is nearly empty as temperatures drop across Israel, October 23, 2019. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
A beach in Tel Aviv is nearly empty as temperatures drop across Israel, October 23, 2019. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Some 70,000 Israelis braved forecasts of heavy rain to visit national parks on Saturday, as it remained unclear whether a rare tropical-like storm would lose strength before reaching the country.

The Israel Nature and Parks Authority said around 4,000 people visited the Caesarea National Park along the Mediterranean coast, while thousands more visited Masada, Qumran and Einot Tzukim.

The latter three national parks are all near the Dead Sea, where Israel’s Meteorological Service said there would be possible flooding on Saturday and Sunday due to expected rainfall beginning in the afternoon.

The Meteorological Service also warned of potential floods in the nearby Judean Desert and elsewhere in southern Israel.

Due to the forecasts of rain, the InDNegev music festival being held in the Eshkol Regional Council ended two hours early, with the final acts canceled, Channel 13 news reported.

The expected storm coincides with the official arrival of winter in Israel as clocks turn back one hour overnight Saturday-Sunday, marking the end of daylight savings time. At 2 a.m. overnight Saturday-Sunday, Israelis need to wind their clocks back to 1 a.m. again.

On Friday, flash flood warnings were issued in the south, and hiking trails and tourist sites in the Judean desert were closed for the weekend.

The Meteorological Service said rain and possible thunderstorms were forecast for the north and center of the country Saturday night and into the next day.

Screen capture from video of flooding in Egypt, October 23, 2019. (Twitter)

The “medicane” that made landfall in Egypt earlier appeared to be decreasing in strength as it headed east, and it was uncertain whether prior predictions of heavy rainfall, strong winds, and flooding across the country would bear out.

Tropical-like cyclones in the Mediterranean are a rare meteorological phenomena that are observed only every few years. On a few occasions, the storms have reached the force of a Category 1 hurricane.

On Friday night, Channel 12 weather forecaster Ilanit Adler said that the coming days were “difficult to forecast.”

She explained that the weather system was “expected to diminish in the coming hours, meaning it won’t reach us at the strength with which it hit Egypt, and there is also a chance that it will peter out and dissipate.”

She added that the winter weather “will remain with us over the coming week, and right now we are talking about possible flooding mostly in the south.”

Officials in the Gaza Strip declared a state of emergency that will stay in effect until Saturday evening. Several municipalities in southern Israel were also making preparations for the storm, including opening hotlines and emergency centers.

Israel’s national electric company advised people to remove any objects from their balconies and rooftops that were susceptible to being blown away or damaged by the storm.

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