Roads blocked, schools closed as freak rains flood country

Unseasonable storm wreaks havoc in south; flash floods reported from Eilat to Dead Sea

Jerusalem, May 7 (photo credit: Yishai Fleisher)
Jerusalem, May 7 (photo credit: Yishai Fleisher)

Schools near the Dead Sea were shut and several roads in the area were blocked by authorities Thursday morning as a rare tropical storm dumped rain cross the country causing flash floods and wreaking havoc in the south of the country.

Police urged citizens in the hard-hit Tamar Regional Council, near the Dead Sea, to stay indoors until further notice. Schools in the area were closed Thursday.

Wednesday night and Thursday morning saw heavy rains and thunderstorms across the country, a rare occurrence so late into the spring.

The rain brought dry riverbeds to life, flooding low-lying areas, especially in the Judean Desert and Negev in the south of the country.

By Thursday morning the city of Arad reported 44 millimeters of rain had fallen from the storm, 40 times the average for this time of year, according to the Israel Meteorological Service. Jerusalem saw 32 millimeters, Beersheba 24 millimeters and Ra’anana 45 millimeters. Tel Aviv, however, only saw 15 millimeters.

Route 90, the main highway running along the Dead Sea, was shut in some areas after flash floods covered the road.

On Route 40 in the Negev, a driver was rescued by authorities Thursday morning after his vehicle was caught in a flash flood near the Paran river, off Route 40 in the Negev.

The driver was taken by helicopter to Yoseftal Hospital in Eilat.

Three tour buses on their way from Jordan to Ein Gedi were also reported trapped on the road.

Later Thursday, an airplane that had taken off at the Ben Gurion Airport on route to Eilat was forced to turn back, as the runway in the southern city’s airport had been flooded by rainwater.

Also Thursday, rescue units used helicopters to evacuate 70 American tourists from a camping site near the Nekarot river in the Arava region, after the river flooded, trapping them.

The IDF Spokesman’s office reported that due to weather conditions, US National Security Advisor Susan Rice, who is currently in Israel for a series of high-level talks between Jerusalem and Washington, was forced to cancel a planned trip to the Palmachim IAF base. The trip will be rescheduled for Friday, the report added.

The rains were expected to taper off by late Thursday, but a flash flood warning will remain in effect until Friday afternoon.

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