Deadly storm hits Israel

Bitter winter conditions returned this week, temporarily ending a past month of spring weather.

By Erin Viner

Citizens and visitors braced for heavy rain, floods, hail, thunderstorms and gusty winds during unseasonably frigid temperatures, as authorities issued warning for the public to avoid area capable of flooding. Hikers have been warned since the start of the week to maintain distance from overflowing riverbeds. Many tourist sites and outdoor reserves have been shut down by the Nature and Parks Authority until sometime next week.

Israeli Air Force helicopters and IDF Unit 669 were deployed to save multiple people on Monday throughout southern regions, in joint efforts with police, fire and rescue services, paramedics and other regional safety divisions.

That same day saw the first fatalities. Ma’ayan Assor, 17, and his sister Shahar, 24, drowned after fleeing their car that became submerged in water during a flash flood in the south on Highway 40. A 21-year-old friend traveling with them suffered mild hypothermia but survived the incident.

An as of yet unidentified woman was killed and three others wounded when 2 cars collided earlier today on the southern Route 3415.

In a separate accident this afternoon, a 20-car pileup resulted from icy road conditions caused by a heavy hail storm near the Anava Interchange on Highway 1 in central Israel. 31 people were injured, the majority of whom sustained light injuries. Paramedics evacuated the wounded to five different medical facilities for care.

Many Passover vacationers at the Red Sea resort city of Eilat, Negev Desert and nearby Sinai desert across the border in Egypt had to be rerouted on journeys home amid road closures due to flash floods. Eilat was essentially cut off from the rest of the country yesterday, although most highways re-opened today included the Jordan Valley’s Route 90 to Israel’s southernmost city.

According to the latest available data, the greatest amount of precipitation was seen in the coastal city of Haifa, where 53 mm of rain fell within the past 4 hours. Other northern cities followed, with 36 mm of rainfall in the Galilee towns of Ein Hod and Kfar Giladi, 31 mm in Tsfat (Safed) and 30 mm in the Golan Heights – where snowfall dusted Mount Hermon.

The rain gradually weakened throughout the day and is due to end later tonight. Temperatures are expected to return to seasonal levels tomorrow and over the coming weekend.