Heavy winds and rains disrupt country amid powerful weekend storm front

Rescue workers extricate hikers trapped in floods, remove downed tree limbs, Kinneret rises 7 cm.

A fallen tree rests on two cars in Tel Aviv’s Ben-Yehuda Street Friday. (photo credit: POLICE SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)
A fallen tree rests on two cars in Tel Aviv’s Ben-Yehuda Street Friday.
Stranded hikers, flooding, lightning, fallen tree limbs, road closings and sunken vehicles dogged much of the country over the weekend, amid a powerful storm front that primarily lifted by Saturday night. No deaths or serious injuries were reported.
At least six hikers, who ignored multiple national weather advisories, were rescued by police and emergency services personnel Saturday after becoming trapped in a flash flood in Nahal Og, the northernmost riverbed draining into the Dead Sea.
The Israel Meteorological Service and municipalities across the nation issued safety advisories Thursday, as the country braced for the first major storm of the year, featuring heavy rains and high winds reaching up to 90 kph.
“During the day Saturday, there were a number of emergency calls received from people who needed to be rescued from inside the riverbed in Nahal Og after being engulfed in flash floods,” said police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld.
“An 11-year-old girl and her father, who is in his 40s, were pulled out of the water with ropes after two hours by emergency and rescue units in the area. After being treated at the scene, they were airlifted by helicopter to a Jerusalem hospital in light condition in order to get them immediate medical care.”
Shortly after the father and daughter were rescued, police were called to a nearby flooded area off Route 90, where four other hikers were trapped due to flash floods.
“They were not in a life-threatening situation, so [they] were rescued as soon as the water receded,” said Rosenfeld.
In Hadera, two children and their grandfather were transferred to Hillel Yaffe Medical Center in light condition with hypothermia Friday morning after being stranded atop their vehicle during a flash flood.
According to the Water Authority, the city of Safed in the north received 110 millimeters of rainfall, the most in the country, resulting in the nearby Lake Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) rising 7 centimeters, to 214.28 meters below sea level.
On the Golan Heights, the Mount Hermon ski resort was temporarily closed Friday after more than 20 cm. of snow blanketed the mountain and nearby roadways. The resort was reopened Saturday morning after roads were cleared, and then closed once again to additional visitors due to an overabundance of people arriving at the site.
In Tel Aviv, which received approximately 38 mm. of rain, several cars were trapped beneath fallen trees, while rescue workers were called in to extricate at least two trapped drivers in nearby Herzliya from a 60-cm. sinkhole.
In Jerusalem, which received just over 40 mm. of rainfall, several tree limbs were downed by heavy winds, though no serious injuries were reported.
In the South, Route 90, running adjacent to the Dead Sea, was temporarily closed Friday due to flooding. Meanwhile, hikers were warned to stay clear of wadis in the Negev due to heavy haze and flash floods.
Lightning strikes resulted in power losses in nearly 2,500 homes, according to the Israel Electric Corporation.
“Police units continue to patrol areas and cities, responding to incidents that have taken place that includes floods, falling trees, and damage to roads and open areas,” Rosenfeld said on Saturday.
“Units are working together with municipalities and coordinating responses with police rescue units to prevent injuries and respond to all emergencies. Extra emergency phone lines are open for the public to call, and police are requesting that the public does not take unnecessary risks in the severe weather conditions in the country until the storm lifts,” he said.
Alissa Razy, a forecaster at the Israel Meteorological Service, said the storm would pass by Sunday and temperatures and conditions would return to normal.