Heavy rains, floods and even hail batter Israel’s north in worst storm of season
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Heavy rains, floods and even hail batter Israel’s north in worst storm of season

Rescue services on high alert amid expected storm damage in major cities; IDF warns hikers to stay on marked trails as floods can carry mines beyond boundaries of marked minefields

Fog and rain in the northern Israeli city of Safed, January 04, 2018. (David Cohen/Flash90)
Fog and rain in the northern Israeli city of Safed, January 04, 2018. (David Cohen/Flash90)

Israel’s worst storm of the season was hitting its peak Friday, with gusts reaching 100 kilometers an hour and flooding expected in towns from the northern Galilee to the Negev desert.

Rescue services say they have stocked up and deployed all necessary equipment, including extra water pumps, rubber boats, life rafts, electric generators and the like. All fire stations are on double duty, and the special Lehava rescue unit of the national Fire and Rescue Service was placed on high alert.

Between 30 and 50 millimeters of rainfall fell overnight between Thursday and Friday in the Galilee, causing the Sea of Galilee to rise two centimeters within hours. Rainfall reached 47 millimeters in the central Golan Heights, while 55 millimeters fell at Haifa University, on the western edge of the Galilee.

Jerusalem’s Mahane Yehuda Market in wind and rain on January 4, 2018. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

At least ten centimeters of snow fell on the lower ridge of Mount Hermon, Israel’s highest mountain, causing the ski resort at the site to announce it would be closed Friday.

Hail fell in the coastal city of Netanya.

The storm is expected to reach its peak in the afternoon, with eight-meter waves expected on the beaches of Tel Aviv.

Illustrative photo of a Magen David Adom ambulance in heavy rain. (Magen David Adom)

The IDF warned any hikers planning to brave the stormy weather in the country’s north and on the Golan Heights to stay on marked trails and steer clear of minefields. Heavy rains can sometimes cause floods and mudslides that carry landmines outside the fenced-in minefields, which are surrounded by barbed wire and marked with yellow and red warning signs.

In Herzliya, two vehicles were trapped in 60-centimeter high flooding Friday morning. Their drivers were rescued from the stranded vehicles by rescue crews.

On Haifa’s Ha’oren Street, part of a wall surrounding an underground gas depository collapsed due to the wind and rain, causing damage to the gas containers, some of which started to leak.

Three firefighting crews were called to the scene. They shut off the leak and cordoned off the area.

File: Tourists look out over Jerusalem’s Old City, as seen from the rooftop of the Austrian hospice, on a foggy winter day, January 2, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The city has closed the tunnel on Halutzey Hata’asiya Street, near the Haifa Port, out of fear of possible flooding.

Police warned they expect that many roads will become blocked, based on previous experience. The force warned drivers to avoid flooded roads, to maintain a safe distance from other vehicles and to reduce speed. Drivers were advised to check their vehicles to make sure the tires are filled with air, that wipers work correctly, and that headlight lenses are clear.

The Jerusalem municipality issued a statement instructing residents to secure loose objects that might be blown off roofs and to check that home heating systems were operating correctly and properly ventilated. The municipality also published a Hebrew-language instruction video, based on the “Winter is coming” theme from the hit television show “Game of Thrones.”

הכל לבן בחוץ! ערפל ממש סמיך אופף את ירושלים ממש עכשיו, וזו הזדמנות להזכיר לכם להגביר עירנות ולנקוט משנה זהירות בנסיעה בכבישים וגם בהליכה ברחובות. חוץ מללבוש משהו חם, הנה עוד כמה טיפים והנחיות חשובות לחורף הירושלמי שלנו ☂️

Posted by ‎Jerusalem Municipality | עיריית ירושלים‎ on Tuesday, 2 January 2018

In Tiberias, the annual marathon, which was scheduled for Friday, was delayed until Sunday, Hadashot news reported. The Israeli Nature and Parks Authority also planned to close some hiking routes.

The Education Ministry announced that it had canceled all school trips for Friday.

Magen David Adom, Israel’s largest ambulance service, said in a statement it had prepared the four-wheel drive ambulances and jeeps it has in its fleet.

Meteorologists say the storm will begin to weaken by Friday evening, moving quickly eastward into Jordan and Iraq.

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