Desert highways flood as rains lash Israel

Sections of Route 90 and Route 40 blocked near Dead Sea and the Arava in the south

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Screen capture from video of rainwater flooding into the Ramon Crater in the southern Negev region, February 7, 2019. (Twitter)
Screen capture from video of rainwater flooding into the Ramon Crater in the southern Negev region, February 7, 2019. (Twitter)

The two longest roads in the country were blocked in sections in southern Israel due to flooding Thursday morning following heavy rains.

Police shut sections of Route 90 near the Dead Sea and Route 40 in the southern Arava desert, as rains continued to lash the country Thursday morning.

Route 90 was blocked between the Ein Gedi Junction and the Dead Sea Hotel region.

Route 40 was blocked between Mitzpeh Ramon and the Tsihor Junction, north of Eilat.

Authorities also shut Ein Gedi National Park to the public, and dry river beds filled with rainwater, causing treacherous conditions.

The Israel Nature and Parks Authority reported that the Nahal Zin, Nahal Huarim and Nahal Davshon wadis had all filled with water and were flowing.

Flash floods in normally dry desert wadis can come almost without warning, sweeping up hikers and flooding roads that cross them.

A military helicopter holding a 669 Search & Rescue crewman and a stranded hiker over a flooded riverbed in southern Israel, November 9, 2018. (Courtesy IDF)

Floods late last year killed dozens of people in Jordan near the Dead Sea and Wadi Rum, including an incident in which a bus was swept up by raging waters.

In April, 10 Israeli students were killed after a freak rainstorm during a hike near the Dead Sea.

The rain was expected to ease during the day Thursday, although some showers were likely, and the temperature was predicted to go down.

Some rain was also expected for Friday with a further drop in temperatures.

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