Winter takes Israel by storm; services down, property damaged, flights disrupted
100 km/h winds and massive rains knock out trees and power throughout the country.
After a weekend of storms that contained relatively light rainfall, the havoc-wreaking winter weather pattern that descended on Israel gained strength on Sunday and large quantities of precipitation fell in the northern and central regions of Israel.
The harsh weather conditions caused disruptions in the flight schedules at Ben Gurion International Airport, affecting both arrival and departure flights. Due to poor visibility on the runways, British Airways and Lufthansa flights supposed to land at Ben Gurion were diverted to Cyprus. Ports in Haifa were closed to all traffic.
The Environmental Protection Ministry has issued an air pollution warning due to the sandstorms that the heavy winds originating in Egypt had whipped up. The ministry recommended that people with heart conditions, pregnant women and young children refrain from being outdoors for extended periods of time.
According to ministry estimates, the proportion of sand particles in the air is between three and four times the normal rate in the Tel Aviv area, and approximately eight times normal levels in Jerusalem.
The snow that began to fall on Saturday left the Hermon covered in the white powder, after twenty centimeters piled up on the lower half of the mountain. Snow also fell in other parts of the Golan Heights and the Upper Galilee villages on the Lebanon border. Students in Kibbutz Sasa were sent home because of the weather conditions.
A great deal of property damage was reported on the boardwalk in Tel Aviv, where large waves demolished whatever lay in their path. "I have lived on the ocean for 27 years, and what is happening right now is just crazy," said Kinneret Avivi-Bloch, a resident of the marina in Tel Aviv.
"This is a hair breadth's away from a catastrophe," said her husband Amos Bloch. "We're lucky that the marina is new. Before the renovations, the marina would not have stood up to this."
Tel Aviv City Hall issued a public warning to residents to avoid the coastal area and the cliffs that line the length of it. "The city is unable to provide lifeguard services [at this time], therefore all lifeguard stations… will be closed until further notice."
At this time efforts are being made to save the jetties, which are at risk of collapse due to the weather conditions. Many businesses on the beach had their windows smashed and suffered financial losses. Beaches from Tel Aviv to Jaffa are completely flooded.
Due to 100 kilometer per hour winds, traffic signals stopped working and fallen trees blocked roads in many places across the country. In Tel Aviv, outside the Dizengoff Center mall, a woman was injured when strong winds lifted her off the sidewalk and into the street, where she was struck by a passing taxi.
In the north of the country, strong winds blew a wall over onto three cars that were parked alongside it. No one was injured in the collapse.
The Electric Corporation reported power failures across the country, due to the weather conditions. Thousands of people in the areas of Hadera, Samaria, Petah Tikva, and other towns were cut off from electrical services. Power outages were also experienced on Saturday throughout the country.
In Acre, a house and a synagogue were flooded, with water reaching levels of up to half a meter high. Aid workers are evacuating residents and attempting to pump water out of the flooded buildings.