Record-setting downpour drenches north as rescuers search for lost teen

Up to 150 millimeters of precipitation recorded in northern Israel, 200mm on Mount Hermon; rains expected to continue through weekend

Rescue teams search for a teen boy who was caught in a flood near the northern village of Yarka, December 26, 2019. (Meir Vaknin/Flash90)
Rescue teams search for a teen boy who was caught in a flood near the northern village of Yarka, December 26, 2019. (Meir Vaknin/Flash90)

Parts of northern Israel saw record rainfall on Thursday, with massive downpours swelling rivers and killing at least one person.

The hardest hit areas were Harashim and Safed, in the Upper Galilee, and Merom Golan in the Golan Heights, according to media reports.

Mount Hermon saw over 200 millimeters (7.8 inches) of rain falling while other areas saw up to 150 millimeters (5.9 inches) in under 24 hours.

Safed’s 126 millimeters (5 inches) of precipitation was the most in one day since record keeping began in 1939. The previous record was 121 millimeters in January 1969, according to Hebrew media reports.

The communities of Neve Ya’ar and Hayogev also experienced record downpours.

The rain turned the Galilee’s normally docile streams into raging rapids, claiming the life of 27-year-old shepherd Majd Qassem Su’ad, who was overcome by a flash flood.

Rescuers were continuing to search overnight for a teen boy who went missing after being swept away by a flash flood that caught him and a relative as they rode an all-terrain vehicle through the area. Reports listed the boy’s age as 14 or 16-years-old.

Authorities said they would keep searching through the night and step up efforts come morning, if need be.

Israel had recorded below average precipitation this year before Thursday’s storm, which erased the deficit in the north and lessened it in other areas.

Jerusalem and southern Israel saw lighter rains as the wet system mostly skirted to the north.

The weather pattern is expected to continue through Saturday, with fears of flooding in the Judean Desert and Jordan Valley, and strong winds expected in the north and center of the country.

The rain was expected to move south to the northern Negev desert region over the weekend, with some thunderstorms and a drop in temperature predicted throughout the country.

In a number of places around the country, drivers needed to be rescued from cars trying to ford flooded streets as drainage systems struggled to keep up with the downpour.

In Nazareth a wall collapsed, causing damage to a number of vehicles but no injuries. Strong winds overturned trees in Hadera and other communities. Hiking trails were closed in parts of the north due to flooding.

A couple is hit by rain and spray from waves in Tel Aviv, December 26, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

In Ashdod a ship that was trying to dock in the port was swept onto an adjacent beach. Port authorities were working to refloat the ship.

Environmental Protection Ministry inspectors found no indication of fuel leaks into the water.

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