Rain in Ofakim Dec. 6, 2010 (Eli Hershkowitz)
Rain in Ofakim Photo by Eli Hershkowitz
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David Bachar
Rain in Holon Photo by David Bachar

Stormy weather arrived in Israel on Friday, signaling the onset of winter after a period of exceptionally dry conditions.

November was the driest month in 42 years and the wildfire that burned last week in the Carmel hills - the largest wildfire in Israeli history - was fueled by the dry conditions.

Isolated showers and thunderstorms popped up throughout the country on Friday afternoon and evening.

The weather this weekend and early next week is expected to be stormy, with heavy rains and snow on the Hermon.

Temperatures are expected to drop 2-3 degrees. On Saturday, rains are expected in the north, accompanied by very strong winds, reaching speeds of 50-110 km/h.

The rains will become stronger and spread to central Israel throughout Saturday, with thunder and lightning. Sandstorms are expected in the south.

The storm is expected to reach its peak Saturday night.

MeteoTech meteorologist Nachum Malik said that on Saturday, "with the rains getting stronger, there is concern for flooding in the Western Galilee and along the Coastal Plain, including the Carmel foothills, especially after the fire. Saturday night and Sunday will be especially rainy. Very large quantities of rain are expected in the north and the center, and there is serious concern about flooding in the cities along the coast."

A further drop in temperatures is expected on Sunday. Snow is also expected to fall on Mount Hermon and possibly also on the higher peaks in the north. In the Negev local showers are expected.

"This is a system that is developing in our area and is expected to leave the area only on Monday afternoon," Malik explains.

Hebrew University climatologist Daniel Rosenfeld says that "some of that same cold air that has until recently been in Western Europe is now moving eastward. The main body of this cold air will reach Italy and Greece, and its eastern edges will also reach us, causing stormy weather during the weekend."

Professor Rosenfeld says that this may be the first of several systems that will bring to an end the dry skies of recent months. "The situation may repeat itself, but I cannot say that in the long term we will have a complete break of the drought."

Airports in Israel have begun to prepare for the storm. Airports Authority employees were told to protect smaller aircraft, especially those at the Dov and Herzliya airports, where small, private aircraft face the risk of being blown away by the winds.

In the southern coastal areas and the Negev they are preparing for flooding, and some 80 rescue volunteers are preparing for the likelihood of having to extricate persons caught in the expected floods.