A woman died Monday in a storm-related car crash, and an Israeli man was fighting for his life after being struck by a wind-snapped tree as a winter weather system came storming into Israel from the west.
Named after a Scripturally-celebrated mountain, and loaded with rain, hail and snow, “Carmel” was, in places, a piledriver powered by winds forecasters said would gust up to 100 km per hour during the hours leading into Tuesday morning.
The storm impacted this small but climate-diverse land from the north to the south, shutting down the ski resort on Mount Hermon and cooling the normally winter-warm Red Sea port of Eilat.
High waves at Caesarea National Park
In somewhat unreal scenes, waves up to 8 meters high came crashing into the Caesarea National Park, turning a hippodrome constructed by Herod the Great 2000 years ago into a pool. Far to the south-east, the weather laid siege to another of Israel’s more than 40 national parks – Masada, site of the Jews’ last stand against Rome in AD 73. The most popular tourist site after Jerusalem, it was closed for business.
Warnings went out as the storm set in Monday, with Israelis forbidden from entering any of the country’s rivers – most of which are dry wadis year-round, but which flash floods can transform in minutes into tree- and boulder-uprooting torrents. People living in low-lying parts of the country were instructed to stay out of underground car parks and other flood-prone areas.
Among the incidents attributed to the rain were the death of a woman who lost control of her car in the north of the country and slammed into a pole, a taxi that ploughed into a sinkhole that suddenly opened up (the driver was unhurt), a couple of cases of hypothermia, at least three people injured – one critically – by falling trees and poles, and a number of cars damaged by dislodged boulders on the Golan Heights.
Tuesday morning found the wind and rain levels had dropped off somewhat in the hills around Jerusalem, as online rain maps posted by the Israel Meteorological Service (IMS) showed what lies ahead for the rest of the week.
According to them, banks of heavy cloud that covered almost the entire country on the first day of the storm were moving north Tuesday, leaving the Negev Desert and all southern Israel largely cloud-free, but expected to hang over the Coastal Plain, the Judean and Samarian hills, and the Galilee through to Saturday.
Rain and isolated thunderstorms are forecast into the weekend, with more snow expected to fall on the slopes of the 1,804-meter-high Hermon, making for some promising skiing in the coming days.
Snowfall on Mount Hermon, will it be enough for the opening of the ski season?
And while the precipitation is expected to bring some relief to the depleted waters of the Sea of Galilee, which dipped lower this year than it did in 2020, Israel’s largest fresh-water reservoir will need considerably more rain to raise it to the healthier levels needed to make it through the long hot summer anticipated for 2022.