Flooding, road closures as heavy rain pounds Israel
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Flooding, road closures as heavy rain pounds Israel

Some 100 mm of rainfall registered in locations across north, while in central cities 18 people are rescued from rising water levels

Israelis walk in the rain on Dizengoff Street in Tel Aviv on December 2, 2016 (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Israelis walk in the rain on Dizengoff Street in Tel Aviv on December 2, 2016 (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Up to 150 mm of rain fell in parts of Israel between Thursday evening and Friday morning as unseasonably powerful thunderstorms lashed the center and north of the country, causing widespread flooding and bringing traffic to a standstill in a number of locations. Friday was also slated to be unusually cold, forecasters said.

In the north, more than 100 mm of rain fell in the Golan Heights, with the maximum — 150 mm — falling on Mount Hermon. In Safed, around 90 mm fell, while the Sea of Galilee was swelled by some 70 mm of rain, the Ynet news website reported.

Flooding also caused the partial closure of Route 91 between the Mahanayim and Gadot junctions, halfway between the Sea of Galilee and Kiryat Shmona. Vehicles were using just a single lane for both directions, with police officers guiding traffic, the Walla website said.

The city of Haifa, where wildfires have caused massive damage to homes and property in recent days, got around 50 mm of rainfall, while Netanya saw some 50 mm of rain.

In central Israel, the cities of Tel Aviv and Bat Yam also received around 50 mm of rain apiece. In Jerusalem, some 24 mm of rain fell. Overnight flooding struck parts of Tel Aviv, but no damage or injuries were reported.

People walk in the rain on Jaffa Street in downtown Jerusalem on December 1, 2016, as the first storms of the winter season hit the country. (Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
People walk in the rain on Jaffa Street in downtown Jerusalem on December 1, 2016, as the first storms of the winter season hit the country. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

A school in the central city of Holon that also doubles as a synagogue was closed Friday when the heavy rains caused flooding, Walla said. Several roads were also closed in Petah Tikva due to flooding.

Nearby Rishon Lezion saw some 80 mm of rainfall, and 10 people were rescued in the city overnight Thursday after they were trapped in their cars by flooding. Six firefighter crews were dispatched to Rishon’s waterlogged streets, locating the trapped individuals in several different sites throughout the city.

In Kfar Chabad, northeast of Rishon, eight people — including four children — were rescued by Border Police when they became trapped in their cars due to floods, Israel National News reported Friday.

The thunderstorms were accompanied by an unusually high number of lightning strikes, the Israel Electric Company said early Friday — some 2,500 throughout Thursday, or roughly 30 percent more than the expected average, Walla reported.

The storms were expected to continue throughout Friday and into the weekend, raising fears of dangerous flash floods in the riverbeds of the Jordan Valley and southern Negev desert. But by Friday morning, the south had largely been spared the inclement weather, with rainfall barely registering in Beersheba, Arad and Ashkelon.

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