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Powerful storm set to batter Israel with 100-kph winds, massive flooding

Gusts twice as strong as average winter storm may damage power lines, traffic lights; Eilat could be cut off by flash floods, authorities warn

Illustrative: A car drives in a flooded road in the northern Israeli city of Nahariya, on a stormy winter day, on January 8, 2020. (Meir Vaknin/Flash90)
Illustrative: A car drives in a flooded road in the northern Israeli city of Nahariya, on a stormy winter day, on January 8, 2020. (Meir Vaknin/Flash90)

Already buffeted by political gridlock and facing a shuttering of key industries over the coronavirus threat, Israelis were informed on Thursday they should brace themselves for yet another storm — a literal one this time.

Local authorities issued warnings Thursday over winds set to surpass 100 kilometers per hour (62 mph), dense dust clouds, and enough rain to cut off outlying cities and threaten large cities with severe flooding.

Israel’s southwestern neighbor Egypt announced it was shuttering schools and universities on Thursday over fears that the storm will cause severe flooding, local media reported.

The weather warning by Israeli authorities begins at 8 p.m. Thursday, when winds are expected to pick up and reach 100 kph in mountainous areas in the center and north of the country, from the Judean hills to the Carmel range above Haifa. The storm-affected area will then expand to include much of the densely populated coastal plain.

“Wind damage is expected,” the warning says. The expected gusts will be almost twice as strong as the average winter-storm maximum of 50-60 kph (31-37 mph), and “are expected to cause damage: fallen trees, electricity poles, traffic lights, roofs and solar water heaters.”

Illustrative: The Tel Aviv beach seen as a sand storm hit Israel on September 8, 2015. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The southeasterly winds are carrying a massive dust storm from North Africa that could reduce visibility in some areas to as little as 20 meters (65 feet).

Overnight will see powerful rains stretching from the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv line in the center of the country south to Gaza and down the Israel-Egypt border to the southernmost city of Eilat.

Between 10 p.m. Thursday and 2 a.m. Friday “the danger of urban flooding is at its highest level, including in Eilat, Beersheba, and cities in the western Negev like Ashkelon, Netivot, Rahat and Sderot.”

The rains are set to spread to the north of the country on Friday morning, and cause widespread flooding in the riverbeds of the Negev, the Arava and the Dead Sea area.

Many roads will be closed, including the two main arteries to Eilat, routes 90 and 40.

Illustrative: Flooding closes Route 40, a key highway to Eilat, April 13, 2017. (Screen capture: Channel 10)

The heaviest rains on Friday are expected in Jerusalem and the central West Bank, with flooding expected throughout the area.

Friday at around noon will see a return of the previous day’s 100 kph gusts, but only in the south, in latitudes from Beersheba to Eilat.

The storm is expected to diminish on Friday evening, beginning at around 6 p.m., when winds will be a “normal” 60 kph and rains will lessen nationwide.

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