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Winter storm ‘Carmel’ wreaks havoc with heavy rains, wind

One death blamed on storm, as woman crashes car into pole; weather system brings down trees and poles, causes fires and floods

People take cover from the rain as they walk on Jaffa Road in the city center of Jerusalem on December 20, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
People take cover from the rain as they walk on Jaffa Road in the city center of Jerusalem on December 20, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Israel’s most intense storm of the winter wreaked havoc across the country Monday, bringing down trees and electrical poles, sparking fires, bringing widespread flooding, and causing at least one deadly car crash.

At least one death and several injuries were blamed on Winter Storm Carmel’s walloping rains and wind, as well as near-freezing temperatures, throughout the country.

The storm intensified throughout the day on Monday and was forecast to continue through the night and into Tuesday morning. The coldest temperatures were felt in the Hermon, which also saw one of its most intense snowfalls of the early winter season.

Among the weather related incidents:

  • A 30-year-old woman driving between Migdal Haemek and Yafia in northern Israel lost control of her vehicle in the pouring rain, slamming into a traffic pole. She was flung from her car, and paramedics were forced to declare her death shortly upon arrival at the scene.
  • In the nearby Bustan al-Marj Regional Council, a 58-year-old woman was found disoriented on the street after having suffered from hypothermia. She was evacuated to a nearby hospital for treatment.
  • In northern Tel Aviv, a taxi driver drove into a sinkhole that was created by the storm. Half of his vehicle plunged into the hole, but the driver himself was left unscathed.
  • Two people were treated by the Magen David Adom ambulance service for light injuries after an electricity pylon in Jerusalem was knocked down by the storm, hitting the truck they were traveling in.
  • Near Majdal Shams on Israel’s northern border, heavy rains sent large boulders falling onto Route 98, damaging a number of cars.
  • In Rishon Lezion, strong winds caused a small fire at the Loft restaurant, authorities said, though they did not elaborate on exactly how the storm sparked the fire.
  • In Nahariya, authorities worried Monday night that the ongoing storm would cause a flood from the town’s Ga’aton River, which had risen to its full capacity. Two years ago, deadly floods inundated the city, and though officials promised to install new safeguards, critics say not enough has been done yet.

Earlier Monday, a man sustained a serious head injury when the stormy weather blew over a tree that landed on him in the coastal city of Netanya. Paramedics who arrived at the scene treated the man, 49, sedating and intubating him before transporting him to Beilinson Medical Center where he had since stabilized, while remaining in serious condition.

The man was apparently walking past the tree, on Raziel Street, when it snapped off at the roots and toppled onto the sidewalk, striking him.

Wind speeds in the area had reached 60 km/h (37 mph), Hebrew media reported.

Another tree blew down in Haifa, landing on a car, but not causing any injuries.

The IDF halted all navigation exercises, due to the weather, and placed restrictions on outdoor leisure activities for soldiers in the north of the country.

In the northern coastal cities of Nahariya and Acre, which were expected to see particularly heavy rainfall and winds, local authorities closed schools and ordered that classes be held remotely via the internet.

Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton ordered that all off-site activities planned by schools across the country be canceled from Monday through Wednesday, as a precaution.

The Israel Nature and Parks Authority closed many sites around the country, including the ancient Masada desert fortress and water hikes in the Judean desert. In the coastal city of Caesarea, the ancient hippodrome remains were also closed to the public.

Video shared on social media showed powerful waves smashing against the sea wall in Caesarea.

The government-owned Mediterranean Coastal Cliffs Preservation Company warned that cliffs along the coast could collapse, dropping boulders down the cliff faces, and advised the public to stay away from such areas.

In Jerusalem, the temperature during the day was forecast to be 8° Celsius (46.4° F); in Tel Aviv 14°C; in Haifa 12°C; and in Eilat, the warmest place in the country, 20°C, though it was expected to drop 14°C at night.

An electricity pylon in Jerusalem was knocked downed by stormy weather, hitting a truck and injuring two, December 20, 2021. (Magen David Adom)

Preparations for the storm began Sunday with emergency services gearing up for various rescue tasks, while local authorities prepared backup generators and trimmed vegetation near powerlines to prevent cuts when the storm made landfall.

Police and fire services warned the public to refrain from unnecessary travel during the storm, which is expected to last until Wednesday. They also urged Israelis to avoid underground parking garages and other areas that could experience flooding, given expectations of up to 150 millimeters (nearly six inches) of rain in some locations.

Sunday’s preparations came during a lull in the stormy weather after rainfall and high winds lashed parts of Israel on Saturday. The weather was blamed for the death of a homeless man, who died of hypothermia.

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