Hikers urged to leave Judean Desert as flash flood warning issued, parks closed

Rains forecast to break extreme heatwave that has hit region in recent days, sparking hundreds of fires and leaving thousands without power

Illustrative: Floods in the Judean Desert due to heavy rain which hit Israel  on January 19, 2018. (Yaniv Nadav/Flash90)
Illustrative: Floods in the Judean Desert due to heavy rain which hit Israel on January 19, 2018. (Yaniv Nadav/Flash90)

The Israel Nature and Parks Authority on Saturday urged hikers to immediately leave the Judean Desert area after a flash flood warning was issued.

The INPA also closed the Nahal David, Nahal Arugot, Nahal Porat, Nahal Darga, Nahal Og, Nahal Mashash and Nahal Tekoa riverbed hiking trails.

The deserts are particularly susceptible to dangerous flash flooding with riverbeds turning from dry paths to raging torrents within minutes. In April, two siblings were killed when their car was washed away in a storm near the southern city of Eilat.

The move comes after the Israel Meteorological Service issued flash flood warnings for the area with storms expected to break an extreme heatwave that affected the country in recent days.

Strong winds from Egypt brought sizzling heat into the country, sending temperatures in some places to a sizzling 43°C (109°F) or higher. The heat caused dozens of fires and left thousands without power after service interruptions in places where fires approached high-tension lines, officials said.

Firefighters battled over 220 blazes across the country throughout the day Friday, according to authorities.

A fire near Shilat in central Israel on June 2, 2023. (Fire and Rescue Services)

Hundreds of acres of forests planted on KKL-JNF Jewish National Fund land were burned, the development organization said.

One man was hospitalized with heatstroke, but no other major injuries from the dangerous weather were reported. Firefighters managed to act quickly to control the brushfires, limiting property damage in many cases.

Temperatures reached as high as 44°C (111.2°F) along the Gaza border, 45°C (113°F) in the Jordan Valley, 43°C (109°F) in Tel Aviv, 35°C (95°F) in Jerusalem and 38°C (100°F) in Haifa.

Sustained wind speeds reached nearly 30 mph in the southern city of Arad and the central town of Beit Dagan, according to the Israel Meteorological Service.

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