Snow, rain hit Israel in winter spell, raising Sea of Galilee level

Stormy weather coats Mount Hermon with snow; precipitation fills up streams, raising flooding threat

The snow covered around the Israeli Northern city of Majdal Shams, January 19, 2021.(Maor Kinsbursky/FLASH90)
The snow covered around the Israeli Northern city of Majdal Shams, January 19, 2021.(Maor Kinsbursky/FLASH90)

Stormy weather hit Israel Wednesday for the first time in weeks, with the nationwide wintry spell lifting the level of the Sea of Galilee, filling up streams in the north and the south, and coating the Golan’s Mount Hermon with snow.

After the country went through its wettest November since 1994, the weather has since been mostly sunny and unseasonably warm. This week has been rainy and windy, with Wednesday marking the peak of the winter spell.

The Water Authority said the Sea of Galilee level has risen by six centimeters (2.36 inches) in 24 hours and reached 209.795 meters (688 feet 3 inches) below sea level — just 99.5 centimeters (3 feet 3 inches) under the upper red line, beyond which there is risk of flooding.

Strong currents have been observed in the Jordan River and in other streams in the north of the country, the Water Authority added, with officials expecting the Sea of Galilee to rise further in the coming days.

Snow continued to pound Mount Hermon, near the border with Syria, with 70 centimeters (2 feet 3 inches) covering its upper area and 40 centimeters (15 inches) covering the lower area, where the main visitor center is located.

The manager of the visitor center, Raphael Naveh, was cited by the Ynet news site as hoping the site could open to visitors after the lockdown, currently set to end January 31.

“Snow without visitors is not snow,” he said.

Heavy rains with thunderstorms have been forecast throughout most of the country, with authorities warning of flooding in cities and desert streams, as well as other hazards.

Light snow was expected in mountainous areas in the north, with some snow mixed with rain possibly reaching elevated areas in the center of the country, including Jerusalem.

Israelis kitesurf off the beach in Tel Aviv on a windy, rainy day, January 19, 2021. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

The rain has been forecast to stop toward evening, but temperatures will remain low during the night.

The Wednesday forecast for Jerusalem was 7° Celsius (45° Fahrenheit), dropping to 4° C at night. In Tel Aviv it was 14° C, and 11° C at night, and in Haifa 12° C and 9° C at night.

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