Israel’s southernmost resort city of Eilat was in chaos on Friday morning, with the first storms of the winter season bringing massive rainfall, forcing the airport to close and blocking many roads.
The Israel Meteorological Service said Eilat saw some 32mm — 140 percent of the annual average — of rainfall by 7a.m. The weather agency predicted that the amount of rain would rise, and warned of possible flash floods in the south that have in the past trapped drivers and hikers. Meteorologists feared the rains could quickly overwhelm dry riverbeds in the Negev Desert and areas around the Dead Sea.
Israel’s Arkia airline, which handles domestic flights into Eilat, suspended all flights for at least 12 hours on Friday morning. The Airports Authority said the nearby Ovda airport would absorb incoming flights, while Eilat’s airport would reopen once the rain stops.
According to Haaretz, police said many of the roads in the city were blocked due to the rain, and that several had collapsed entirely. Some 20 kindergartens were flooded, forcing the pre-schools to either send the children home or divert them to other facilities in the city.
Channel 2 television said several cars were stranded in the floods, and that one of them had caught fire. The Ynet news website reported that at least two seafront hotels — the U Coral Beach Club and the Club Hotel — also experienced flooding.
The Yotvata Hai-Bar Nature Reserve, just outside the city, was also closed due to the weather, Haaretz said.
The first rain of the new year fell very early Thursday morning, and had been expected to continue throughout the weekend as a storm system moved through the country, leading to fears of flash floods in dry desert areas.
Thursday’s rain, which began in the south and east, was expected to spread to the rest of the country along with heavy thundershowers, ending the several-month dry period.
Temperatures were expected to begin to drop to seasonal levels Friday as the rain gradually tapered off, though flash flood warnings would remain in effect for dry riverbeds in the eastern and southern parts of the country.