828 lightning strikes: Israel battered by unseasonal thunderstorms, hail, floods

Rain drenches whole country, with record-breaking number of lightning strikes; Water Authority says it’s first time in over 30 years that back-to-back winters have been so rainy

Israelis carry umbrellas on a rainy day in Tel Aviv. May 05, 2020. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)
Israelis carry umbrellas on a rainy day in Tel Aviv. May 05, 2020. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

Thunderstorms drenched Israel on Tuesday in a rare springtime downpour, with hail and flooding recorded in the south.

The storms raged from northern Israel to the Negev Desert in the south, and were expected to further raise the levels of the Sea of Galilee, which has already enjoyed a particularly rainy winter.

The rains were expected to continue Wednesday, but gradually peter off by evening.

The Israel Electric Corporation recorded 828 lightning strikes on Tuesday morning and afternoon, an unprecedented number for May, and up dramatically — by 2,748% — from May’s monthly average of 30.

The Israel Water Authority on Tuesday said the last time the country saw two such rainy winters consecutively was over three decades ago, in late 1986- early 1988.

Last year Israel saw generous rainfall in the north, raising the level of the Sea of Galilee by 19.5 centimeters and ending a 5-year drought that plagued the area.

In this April 25, 2020 photo, a bird swims where dry land used to be in the Sea of Galilee, locally known as Lake Kinneret. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

Parts of Highway 90 in the south were closed off to traffic Tuesday amid intermittent flooding. Strong hail was also recorded in the southern cities of Arad and Yeruham, while rains battered most cities, including Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

People wearing face mask as they take cover from the rain in downtown Jerusalem, on May 5, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Israel rarely sees rain in its dry season between April and October.

Following an especially wet winter, the Sea of Galilee in northern Israel is at its highest level in two decades. The water level came close to its all-time low in April 2017, when the level dropped to 212.95 meters (about 698 feet) below sea level. The current level is minus 208.92 meters (minus 685 feet).

In this April 25, 2020 photo, a dog swims in the water as trees stand where dry land was in the Sea of Galilee, locally known as Lake Kinneret (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

Agencies contributed to this report.

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