Heavy storm causes disruptions throughout country

100-km. winds batter the coast, closing ports, cutting power and scattering debris; Molodovan ship sinks off Ashdod; Caesarea site in danger.

December 12, 2010 21:11
4 minute read.
The sea engulfs Tel Aviv’s Gordon Beach yesterday.

storm on beach_311. (photo credit: Ben Hartman)


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One of the worst storms in recent years battered the nation on Sunday, with 100-km. winds and driving rain wreaking havoc up and down the coast.

The surging seas forced Haifa Port to close and sank a Moldovan cargo ship off Ashdod. All 11 sailors on board were rescued by a freighter flying a Panamanian flag, which is now waiting for the waves to subside so it can dock in Ashdod.

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The storm also caused widespread disruptions at Ben-Gurion Airport, forcing two flights, one from London and one from Munich, to land in Larnaca, Cyprus.

The Israel Electric Corporation reported power failures affecting thousands of customers since Saturday. In Bat Yam, the IEC operated two generators on Sunday to supply a neighborhood suffering from power outages after an electrical tower was felled by the wind. Over 10,000 households were still without power as of midnight.

Over 30 people were injured due to falling objects during the storm. In Netanya, a passenger was moderately injured when a tree collapsed on the cab she was traveling in. In Tel Aviv, a woman was lightly injured when she was swept off her feet by the wind and hit by a car on Rehov Dizengoff. In Ashdod, a man was seriously injured when a porch pergola collapsed on him.

A modern-day sea wall outside the Caesarea archeological site fell early on Sunday, leaving the walls of the ancient port exposed to the crashing waves. Israel Parks and Nature Authority officials said that if a solution is not found, the waves could cause irreparable damage to one of the country’s most-cherished archeological sites.

“The situation in Caesarea is very worrying,” said Ze’ev Margalit, the head of preservation and development in the authority. “There is no disagreement among experts that the current situation, if it is not improved, will lead to the destruction of one of the flagship archeological sites of Israel.”

Along the unsheltered Tel Aviv coast, the beach has been carried inland; in certain places the entire promenade was covered with a thick layer of sand.

At the Tel Aviv Port, the wind caused serious damage, shattering windows of restaurants and stores, uprooting concrete lightposts from their foundations and scattering stones, debris and café furniture in all directions. In the middle of the port’s wooden boardwalk, a large sand box popular among children on the weekends has become a wading pool, covered with at least a foot of seawater.

Serious damage was also caused to the Tel Aviv Marina, where the breakwaters were in danger of collapse on Sunday. Storefronts at the kayak and sailing center had their windows shattered by the wind, and inside one establishment the floor was covered by a thick layer of sand and debris, which employees were cleaning out with shovels and a wheelbarrow.

The Tel Aviv Municipality warned residents to steer clear of the marina area on Sunday, and a quick spin through the area showed the warnings weren’t frivolous. The wind shrieked through the marina as it tore between the masts of the boats bobbing furiously in the shallow water. The floating boat docks were oscillated rapidly as well, threatening to break their moorings.

Throughout the marina, boat owners scrambled to secure their boats, as they were soaked by the spray flying off the waves crashing against the breakers. The sea spray and the raindrops, carried by winds reaching 100 kph, felt like needles when they hit the skin.

One teenager, Roi, was working to secure the Blue Tiger to the dock on Monday. Roi said he and the others at the marina “are trying to strengthen the ropes and the knots tying the boats to the dock, so they don’t move round too much.

You see this right here?” he asked, pointing at a post to which the deck is anchored. “If this breaks, or it comes lose from its moorings, the decks could go all over the place.”

At a restaurant outside the “Sea Center” further up the promenade, two employees huddled inside. On the deck, debris was scattered in all directions, as were two large potted plants, standing at least waist-high, which had crashed and shattered.

“There are storms each year at the start of the winter, but I haven’t seen anything like this before. We’ll just wait it out and clean up,” said Amit, one of the employees.

The rains and strong winds were expected to continue throughout the night Sunday, but meteorologists said the weather would calm down significantly on Monday.

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