Days of torrential rainfall this week have brought the water level in the Sea of Galilee, Israel’s major freshwater lake, up by some 20 centimeters (7.9 inches), local authorities reported Saturday.
The rains calmed on Saturday and temperatures were expected to rise slightly over the coming days with clearer skies, but forecasts showed the downpours resuming next weekend.
Parts of northern Israel saw record rainfall on Thursday, with massive downpours swelling rivers, and killing two people.
The hardest hit areas were Harashim and Safed, in the Upper Galilee, and Merom Golan in the Golan Heights, according to the Israel Meteorological Service.
Mount Hermon, which opened its snowy slopes to visitors for the fist time this season on Saturday, saw over 200 millimeters (7.8 inches) of rain falling while other areas saw up to 150 millimeters (5.9 inches) in under 24 hours.
Safed’s 126 millimeters (5 inches) of precipitation was the most in one day since record keeping began in 1939. The previous record was 121 millimeters in January 1969, according to Hebrew media reports.
The communities of Neve Ya’ar and Hayogev also experienced record downpours.
The rain turned the Galilee’s normally docile streams into raging rapids, claiming the life of 27-year-old shepherd Majd Qassem Su’ad, who was overcome by a flash flood, and 15-year-old Omri Abu-janb who was swept away by raging floodwaters near the town of Jatt.
Israel had recorded below average precipitation this year before Thursday’s storm, which erased the deficit in the north and lessened it in other areas.
Jerusalem and southern Israel saw lighter rains as the wet system mostly skirted to the north.
In a number of places around the country, drivers needed to be rescued from cars trying to ford flooded streets as drainage systems struggled to keep up with the downpour.
In Nazareth a wall collapsed, causing damage to a number of vehicles but no injuries. Strong winds overturned trees in Hadera and other communities. Hiking trails were closed in parts of the north due to flooding.
In Ashdod a ship that was trying to dock in the port was swept onto an adjacent beach. Environmental Protection Ministry inspectors found no indication of fuel leaks into the water.