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Israel breaks 51-year-old rainfall record, historic flooding claims 7 lives


Torrential downpours in northern Israel have broken a 51-year-old rainfall record within a two-week period, according to the Israel Meteorological Service (IMS). An average of 350 and 400 mm (14 to 16 inches) of rain had been accumulated since December 25, 2019– the highest amount measured in two-week time since January 1969. Several areas received rainfall amounts in days that surpassed the average for a month and a season. 7 people have been killed.

Storms slammed central and northern Israel for over a week as two storm systems hit the country one after the other, resulting in widespread flooding in cities and rivers. Homes, vehicles, and infrastructures were left badly damaged.

The figures have only been seen twice since records began 80 years ago– in December 1951 and January 1969. In some areas in the south, rainfall also smashed a 76-year old record.

As of Thursday morning, January 9, the Sea of Galilee increased by 23 cm (9 inches) in a 24-hour period. Several roads were blocked as flooding caused havoc on intercity roads. Route 4 going south from Ashod Interchanged was closed off, as well as Route 90 in both directions between Ein Bokek and Ein Gedi. 


​Image credit: Israel Fire and Rescue


Image credit: Israel Fire and Rescue

Downpour within the first nine days of January has surpassed the average for the entire month. In Moshav Regba and Kibbutz Evron in Western Galilee, the amount of rain since the beginning of January has exceeded the average for the entire winter season in the region.

Rescue forces said emergency centers around the country were full due to the inclement weather.

Nahariya suffered the most damage after it was hit by a violent cloudburst on January 8 and engulfed in floodwaters.

"The whole city was destroyed. The city was washed away," said mayor Ronen Marley. Reports said the cost of rebuilding damaged infrastructures in Nahariya alone may reach millions of dollars.

One person has been killed, a 38-year-old Shlomo Ben Shabat, who died while trying to rescue a mother and her daughter stuck in their inundated car.

Marley and President Reuven Rivlin honored Shabat's deed, referring to him as "the hero of the entire country". Shabat was laid to rest on Thursday, which was attended by thousands of people.

"His bravery, his refusal to be a bystander, his courage, touched all our hearts– and are examples of humanity and mutual responsibility of the highest order," Rivlin said.

IMS said the Western and Upper Galilee have recorded over 400 mm (16 inches) of rain, leading to major floods. Other meteorological stations have recorded more than 450 mm (18 inches).


Image credit: Israel Fire and Rescue

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged the public to listen to safety instructions from authorities as rains are still expected in most parts of Israel. He also ordered an investigation on the death of a couple trapped in a flooded elevator in Tel Aviv on January 4.

On Friday, January 10, the current storm system will start to wind down. By Saturday, January 11, temperatures will begin to warm up as residents will see a mix of sun and clouds.

Featured image credit: Israel Fire and Rescue

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One Comment

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