Israel was pounded Friday by its worst storm of the winter, with over 100 millimeters of rain falling in parts of the north and lightning strikes throughout the day and flash floods in the southern desert regions.
The heavy rains left Israelis stranded in floods, shut main roads and brought down dozens of trees, causing some damage. Route 90 running along the Dead Sea was closed after a desert stream flooded and Route 234 was closed near Tze’elim in the south due to flooding.
Safed experienced the heaviest rainfall, with 110 millimeters of rain falling in the northern city. A number of other places in the north also got around 100 millimeters of rain and the ski resort at Mount Hermon in the Golan Heights saw heavy snowfall, but still not enough to open the site to visitors.
As a result of the rain in the north, the Sea of Galilee rose three centimeters.
Elsewhere in the country, Jerusalem got 40 millimeters of rainfall and Tel Aviv got 38 mm. The storm also included lightning strikes, with the Israel Electric Corporation recording 2,500 over the past day, according to Hadashot news, 300 more than the entire monthly average.
Despite the wintry conditions, the worst of the storm was believed to have passed by late Friday with much lighter rainfall expected Saturday.
Earlier Friday, two children, aged six and nine, and a 70-year-old man were rescued from a jeep suffering from hypothermia. The three were driving in an open area near the northern coastal city of Hadera when the vehicle became stuck in a huge puddle. The two children had climbed on to the roof of the vehicle due to the depth of the water.
The fire brigade was able to rescue them and paramedics from Magen David Adom administered first aid before transporting them to the Hillel Yaffe Medical Center in fair condition.
A police car which was towing the vehicle also became stuck in the water, and had to be pulled out by the rescue services.
A number of potholes opened on Route 70 in the section between Yagur and Yokne’am in the north of Israel, due to the storm. This led to drivers stranded at the side of the road with punctures in their tires and police blocked one lane of traffic, Hadashot news reported.
Route 581 north of Netanya was also blocked in both directions due to a fallen tree.
Elsewhere a tree fell onto a parked vehicle in Ramat Gan, causing light damage to the car. Nobody was injured.
Rescue services said they had stocked up and deployed all necessary equipment, including extra water pumps, rubber boats, life rafts and electric generators. All fire stations are on double duty, and the special Lehava rescue unit of the national Fire and Rescue Service was placed on high alert.
The IDF warned any hikers planning to brave the stormy weather in the country’s north and on the Golan Heights to stay on marked trails and steer clear of minefields. Heavy rains can sometimes cause floods and mudslides that carry landmines outside the fenced-in minefields, which are surrounded by barbed wire and marked with yellow and red warning signs.